Editorial: Our Canadian Forces

The question is provocative.

It is one that can create cruel debate and wrong conclusions.

But it needs to be asked.

Why are all the Canadian soldiers being killed in Afghanistan white?

Where are our new Canadians from China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and the rest of Asia?

Sixty four of the 66 Canadian military personnel killed in Afghanistan since the start of the mission in 2002 are white Canadians. The other two are black Canadians.

There is something not right with this picture.

Walk in downtown Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal and you will be greeted with a glorious mosaic of cultures, mingling and mixing, sharing and caring, fighting for and defending all things Canadian.

Look at the queue of soldiers heading into a Hercules transport bound for Afghanistan - it is overwhelmingly white and male.

This stark contrast clearly illustrates that visible minorities are vastly under-represented in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is a entirely different world from that found on our home soil.

Of the 1.6 million new Canadians between 2001 and 2006, the vast majority — 1.2 million — were new immigrants, mostly from Asia.

Roughly one out of every five people in Canada, or between 19% and 23% of the nation’s population, will be a member of a visible minority by 2017 when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, according to the latest ethno-cultural population projections.

Under the scenarios considered for these projections, Canada would have between 6.3 million and 8.5 million visible minorities 12 years from now.

Compare these numbers with the Canadian military and you will find that less than 3 per cent of its 132,000-strong regular and reserve forces are visible minorities.

The Department of National Defence says its target is to increase this to nine percent – but given the current rate of recruitment of visible minority soldiers, that is close to impossible.

It’s not that the Canadian military isn’t trying hard to correct this imbalance and populate its ranks to be reflective of the society it is sworn to protect.

You can rest assured that the Indo-Canadian pilot, the Japanese-Canadian gunner and Chinese-Canadian medical officer are all being singled out as the poster children for recruitment purposes.

They are being used as role models to dispel fears of racism and other undeserving taboos about the military.

But it is apparent that Canadian minority groups are shunning our military.

A random sampling of the ethnic communities in B.C., for the purpose of this opinion piece, drew some unfortunate responses.

“I don’t think Chinese families see careers for their children in the military,” said a Richmond-based political activist.

At a Vancouver Sikh temple, a group of devotees were in unison – “we did not come to Canada to fight”.

“No way.. I brought my sons here so they did not have to join the national draft,” said a South Korean businessman.

The prevailing attitude is that joining the Canadian military means fighting and going to war.

There was little recognition of duty, valor, peacekeeping, disaster aid and the right – no, the obligation of Canadian citizens to defend the values we all came to Canada for.

If we as new Canadians do not hesitate to fight for equal rights, we must also not hesitate to defend those rights.

Our strength as new Canadians must not only be measured in economic terms.

We must permeate and be present in all aspects of Canada.

That includes the Canadian Forces.

Copyright 2008 diArmani.com