Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Taking stupid to new levels

This idea is a steamer - truly leading-edge stupidity:

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre is calling on the federal government to build a Canadian Forces base for native soldiers.

"I think that we have to show sensitivity since Canada is also composed of first nations," Mr. Coderre said yesterday.

"The Canadian Forces have always reflected what Canada is," he said.

The base, which would be a first in Canada, would be built in the Restigouche area of northern New Brunswick.


Look, I'm all for recruiting more aboriginals into the CF. Historically speaking, they've made great warriors, although their treatment by the Canadian government was generally an embarrassing disgrace. In "Aboriginal Participation in Canadian Military Service: Historic and Contemporary Contexts", by John Moses, Native History Researcher, Canadian Ethnology Service at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the author leads us through a brief history of aboriginal involvement with the Canadian military, in the process making this notable point:

Of those who did participate in 20th century war efforts, the service records of many First Nations individuals and Indian reserve communities are impressive.

***

There is research to indicate that in both World Wars Aboriginal Canadians volunteered for military service in proportionally greater numbers than the rest of the Canadian population at large.


The Canadian Forces can always use another Tommy Prince. If you don't know who Tommy Prince is, follow the link and read up on this great Canadian soldier, pictured here.

So, by all means, recruit more First Nations soldiers. But don't segregate them.

To be fair, I'm not sure the original proponent of the idea - a former soldier named Serge Noel - has really thought of the proposal in those terms. His heart seems to be in the right place, if not his head:

"We're talking to [aboriginal] youth that want to join the Armed Forces, but are not comfortable with the situation," Noel said. "But when we make mention of a native-only [regiment], they are very excited and very upbeat about it."

Noel, who is francophone but not native, said the military can be a tough place for people who are not anglophone or white.

Noel said that, for a lot of his military training, he was sent to Calgary, where he had to work in English.

He pointed out that the francophone minority in the military at least has the option of joining the Van Doos, the Royal 22nd Regiment in Quebec, which was created in the First World War for French-Canadian troops.


Well, they also had racially-recruited Indian units in WWI (the 107th and 114th Battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force), and in WWII the Canadian government still pursued race-based recruiting that put most aboriginal volunteers into the Army, as opposed to the other two branches of the Forces. Ask aboriginal veterans how well that separate status worked out for them when they returned home from the war and found themselves removed from Status rolls and unable to collect a veteran's pension.

And dragging the Van Doos into the debate is unhelpful. The key here is that the 22ieme does not require a soldier to be francophone to join the regiment. Neither do you have to be Inuit to join the Rangers, although most of those troops are aboriginals, due to both demographics and the required skill sets.

Separate aboriginal military units posted to a separate aboriginal base would be a poison in the Canadian Forces. It is difficult enough to knit together volunteers from as geographically, racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse a population as Canada's into a cohesive fighting force. Introducing racial divisions would be completely counterproductive in this context.

That the Liberal defence critic should be advocating racial segregation for aboriginal soldiers in the year 2007 is astonishing, and extremely disappointing. And it shows just how unserious a player Denis Coderre is in Canada's ongoing defence dialogue.

10 Comments:

Blogger Josh said...

Fair enough. Segregation isn't a good idea. But we wouldn't be compelling aboriginal recruits to join the regiment, would we? It would be an option. Similarly, we could probably allow non-native participants and still maintain an aboriginal character, depending on how recruitment is carried out.

Or from another angle: We have highland regiments that bear elements of Scottish culture. Why not have a regiment that bases itself in aboriginal culture?

(Not trolling. Genuinely interested in your take on this.)

5:33 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger Chris Taylor said...

I don't have a problem with a regiment basing its traditions and ceremonies on a particular First Nations culture, any more than I have problem with the former Mississauga Regiment becoming the Toronto Scottish.

But the Toronto Scottish didn't go out of their way to establish an armoury in an area exclusively populated by ethnic Scots. They were formed as a general infantry battalion to carry on the traditions of the 75th Bn, CEF, and on the insistence of their peacetime militia commander, became modelled on the London Scottish Regiment.

Coderre isn't exactly proposing to model ordinary CF units on native warrior traditions -- not a bad idea in itself. He's proposing to create such a regiment specifically for natives, in an area populated mostly by natives. That smacks of something distinctly different.

6:38 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

What Taylor said, Josh.

7:13 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger WE Speak said...

To begin with the last thing the Canadian Forces need is another base. The military should not be used for regional economic development/employment projects.

This statement in the article was interesting - "a local resident who noticed that many natives from the area were crossing the border to join the armed forces in the United States."

Why are they joining the U.S. Military? They don't have aboriginal units or bases that I know of. Survey the people joining the U.S. military to find out the reasons why they are going there instead of the CF.

This is nothing more than pandering on Coderre's part.

7:16 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger John said...

Nice to see Coderre displaying his usual knowledge of the CF. And segregation too! My, my, aren't we blessed today.

8:22 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

Jim Cree?

Mark
Ottawa

8:24 p.m., April 11, 2007  
Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Why are they joining the U.S. Military? They don't have aboriginal units or bases that I know of. Survey the people joining the U.S. military to find out the reasons why they are going there instead of the CF.

Bingo.

7:51 a.m., April 12, 2007  
Blogger rosignol said...

To begin with the last thing the Canadian Forces need is another base. The military should not be used for regional economic development/employment projects.

Is *that* what Canadians think a military is for?

Oh, dear...

9:49 a.m., April 12, 2007  
Blogger Mark Dowling said...

"To begin with the last thing the Canadian Forces need is another base. The military should not be used for regional economic development/employment projects."

any more? Look at the convenient infusion into St John's to refit the base there just as Danny Williams starts threatening to haul down the flag. Look at the industrial offset fiasco.

As for the aboriginal issue, maybe placement of some units near urban reserves might be a better call if aboriginal participation is deemed necessary. Just have to find a bit of land not subject to a claim first I guess.

12:34 p.m., April 12, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

A friend of mine used to be a soldier in 2 PPCLI and there was some talk then of creating an aboriginal platoon within the battalion, to be called the Tommy Prince platoon. He asked a native soldier in his section what he thought about it. The native guy said that he joined the army to get away from Reservations......

11:11 p.m., April 12, 2007  

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