Recruitment unlikely to meet equity goals

The Canadian Forces appear unlikely to meet their employment equity targets for 2013. Set in 2010, the recruitment goals for women, visible minorities, and aboriginals are far higher than current numbers for these groups.

The Department of National Defence provided CBC News with the following recruiting targets (Kathleen Harris, “Military missing employment equity recruiting targets,” 2 August 2012):

In an interview on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, both parliamentary secretary to the defence minister Chris Alexander and NDP MP and military procurement critic Matthew Kellway stressed the importance of the Canadian Forces reflecting the diversity of Canada’s population. While the Conservative MP focused on the effect this has on projecting Canadian values abroad, Kellway pointed out its necessity for gaining public support domestically.

Alexander blamed past policy decisions, such as closing down reserve units, by the Liberals for recruitment equity problems. He went on to claim that although the 2013 targets may seem “ambitious,” Canada is doing well in comparison to other democratic countries, particularly with regard to the role of women.

However, Kellway disagreed, arguing that

the data masks an even more troubling trend. Women mostly serve in traditional roles in the military, and constant conflict between aboriginal groups and the federal government [for example, the federal court ruling on Attawapiskat] has thwarted efforts to attract more aboriginals to serve.

During the Power & Politics interview, Liberal defence critic John McKay asserted that the Canadian Forces are not as in tune as they should be with appropriate and effective recruiting techniques, particularly for the equity target populations.

Walter Dorn, Professor of Defence Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada (and Rideau Institute Senior Advisor), commented on the need to change the “culture” in the military:

“Despite the best efforts, there’s still a tendency for the white males to dominate in the Canadian Forces, and that’s only natural. By being themselves they’re going to have tendencies and biases that aren’t shared by other communities,” he said. “A lot of that is nuanced and subtle, but it’s definitely there.”

Dorn said the linguistic and cultural skills of minority groups not only better reflect Canada on the world stage, but are also an operational asset in deployments abroad.

Further complicating the situation, CBC News reported last October that the Canadian Forces have significantly cut the numbers of applications they accept and are primarily targeting certain specific skills (“Canadian Forces accepting fewer recruits,” 13 October 2011):

Out of 100 categories of jobs or trades in the Forces, only 13 list current openings, including dentists, musicians and social workers.

The military normally recruits around 5,000 people in a year. This year, it expects to recruit only 2,800.

Fewer recruits are needed because fewer members are leaving the military and more reservists are switching to regular forces.

The application process is also highly competitive.

By decreasing the professional pools from which they select, the Canadian Forces’ limiting of applicant specialties may make recruitment targets for equity groups even more difficult to reach.

Photo credit: DND

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