The demographics of the Canadian Armed Forces
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), also known as Canadian Forces (CF) is Canada’s unified armed forces under the constitution of the National Defense Act. According to the act, CAF is considered the armed forces of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II (Park, 2008). CAF is divided into the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, with each of these units providing opportunities to several individuals including men, women, visible minorities, and other groups. CAF makes significant contributions to the Canadian economy, and this is highlighted by the fact that over 111,000 people are on the institution’s payroll, and this includes over 24,000 civilian workers. With these statistics, CAF is the second largest employer in Canada, and thus, makes critical contributions to the provincial, local, as well as territorial economies. In the 1980s, Canada’s military recorded the highest number of personnel, and this was slightly over 120,000 persons. In the subsequent years, a significant decline in staff was recorded, and in 2001, the number had decreased by 33% to 81, 600 (Park, 2008). The major decrease was attributed to the rapid changes in the international political climate. For instance, after the 1980s, the Cold War came to an end and international cooperation was at a peak. However, CAF has grown steadily in the recent years, an attribute of the increase in terrorist attacks and international unrest. The 9/11 terrorist attack on the US prompted military responses that have been influential in the rise in CAF’s personnel.
There are two key components of the CAF; the regular and the reserve forces, with the former consisting of full-time personnel while the latter consists of personnel working on a part-time basis. The reserve forces play an integral role in the mobilization or expansion of the army when necessary (Park, 2008). With the increase in terrorist attacks globally in recent years, the deployment of reserve forces to overseas missions has been evident. The personnel in the reserve forces are fundamental to the augmentation of professional troops, and this is through the provision of specialists or soldiers to the CAF. Moreover, their role in the provision of expertise in psychological operations and medicine cannot be ignored.
As mentioned earlier, the rise in global terrorism has prompted an increase in military responses, and this underscores the increasing trends shown by the regular and reserve forces of the CF in recent years. In 2006, there were about 64,000 regular and 24,000 reserve personnel in the CAF. There is a significant age difference between the reserve and regular members of Canada’s military forces. In 2006, over 40% of reserve personnel in the CAF were under the age of 25 whereas only 10% of those in the regular forces were under the same age. In 2002 up to 2006, one in five of the members of the reserve forces and only one in eight of those in regular forces were women. Moreover, visible minority groups formed part of the CAF although less than 5 percent of personnel in the regular force comprised of those from the mentioned group in 2002. This is in contrast to over 10% of the reserve personnel who were from immigrant or visible minority groups (Park, 2008).
Statistics indicate that there is a notable difference between the reserve and regular forces regarding environment, and this refers to those carrying out their operations in land, air, or water. Among the CF’s reserve personnel, over 70% of them operate in the army, 15% in the navy, and 9% in the air force. On the other hand, over 50% of those in the regular forces operate in the army, 32% the air force, and 18% in the navy. Regarding occupation, 46% of reservists focus more on combat arms, such as infantry battalion or artillery regiment whereas only 22% of those in regular forces concentrate on the same. Furthermore, demographic statistics in Canada between 2002 and 2005 indicate a significant difference between members of the CAF and civilian workers in Canada. For instance, over 70% of CF personnel were under the age of 40 whereas only 50% of civilian workers were below the same age in 2002. This implicates that a bigger percentage of civilian workers (11%) were at the age of 55 and 64 as compared to that of CAF members (1%) in the age bracket (Park, 2008).
As compared to the civilian working population, the CAF exhibits an under-representation of those from visible minority groups. Today, only 6% of the personnel in the CAF are members of visible minorities, and out of this, 5 percent serve in the regular forces while 11 percent serve in the reserve forces. The representation of those from minority groups in the CAF is much lower as compared to that of the US military forces, which stands at 33%. Similarly, the representation of immigrants in the CAF is lower (6%) as compared to that of the US (21%). The under-representation of the groups mentioned in the CAF can be attributed to the citizenship requirement that determines whether an individual joins the CAF. Today, there is a policy in place that only allows Canadian citizens to join the regular forces, and this has locked out a large number of people from visible minority groups as well as immigrants.
Importance of Diversity in the CAF
To keep pace with modern-day reality, there is a need to do away with the conservative, old, and male-dominated ideas and models as well as the underlying assumptions, which have been overtaken by new ideas about diversity. Despite the rapid evolution and change in times, people have been held captive by conservative and old ideologies about how military organizations should handle different social and ethno-cultural groups in the modern society, and this is inclusive of Aboriginal people, immigrants, and women (Fraser, 2013). It remains evident that several militaries including the Canadian Armed Forces face challenges in encompassing the full potential of their populations. Besides, the CAF and other militaries have found it difficult to transform the social and intercultural patterns, norms, beliefs, and values, which discriminate some members of the population because of the ascriptive characteristics they exhibit (MacIntyre et al, 2004). In the Western societies, Canada included, significant strides have been made towards the transformation to socially and culturally heterogeneous military forces (Scoppio, 2009). In Canada, the racial integration of the Aboriginal people began in 1812, when Black Canadians had the opportunity of serving in the CAF and participating in the war of 1812. Previously, Canada faced myriads of challenges in the integration of the Canadian francophones into the CAF, although this changed later.
Women in Canada also had the opportunity to serve in the CF as nurses in 1885 during the Northwest Rebellion. Ever since, visible minority groups, such as the Japanese and Chinese living in Canada, have been integrated into the CAF. In fact, Canada was the first country in the Western world, alongside the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, to integrate women into the military forces. Several regulations have been put in place with the aim of accommodating religious and cultural differences in the CAF. For instance, members of Aboriginal communities are allowed to wear braids, and women from Muslim communities are authorized to wear hijab. The personnel from minority groups have also achieved the highest ranks in the CAF. In respect of these perspectives, a common and debatable concern has been how important diversity is in the Armed Forces, not only in Canada but also other countries. Despite the challenges facing the embrace of diversity in the CAF, it results in better and improved performance of the military personnel, particularly in the production of innovation, which has become an essential element in the military today. Diversity has resulted in the generation of innovative ideas among members, and this has encouraged other members to become more committed to achieving the set objectives and goals of the CAF (McDonald & Parks, 2013). Besides, diversity, particularly when it comes to the integration of women, plays an integral role in the addition of tactical necessity to military operations. It can be remembered by allowing women to join the Navy; the CAF collected actionable intelligence from women in Iraq and neighboring countries, a move that helped counteract terrorism in the Middle East. Additionally, diversity has been phenomenal in the CAF’s operations carried out in far-flung areas of the world. This is owed to the fact that the CF has had several members conversant with the language and culture of operational areas.
Just like the corporate world, there is a need for the CAF’s recognition of the necessity of recruitment and retention, and diversity has contributed significantly towards the accomplishment of the two. Notably, the integration of women and minorities in the CF has helped retain other members of visible minorities (Dansby et al, 2012). The importance of diversity to the CF is also highlighted by the fact that it enhances or paves the way for effective strategic planning. Before carrying out various military operations, strategic planning is essential for coordination and cooperation, and these are achieved by embracing diversity. Other than strategic planning, the involvement of all military officers in a given operation is essential, and unless diversity is not embraced in the CAF, this cannot be achieved. The participation in every operation provides military officers with the opportunity to form task and focus groups that enable them to understand and articulate their needs and interests. These can only take place when the CAF embraces diversity (Reyes, 2006).
Barriers facing women, visible minorities, and other groups in the Armed Forces
Despite the commitments made by the CAF towards the integration and inclusion of women, visible minorities, and other groups, the groups continue to face myriads of challenges or barriers. Women are at the center of focus when it comes to the military, and thus, their roles or responsibilities are jeopardized by various barriers. One of the greatest barriers faced by women in the CAF is the laxity by top leadership to embrace diversity (Kümmel, 2000). Laxity is one of the most complex subjects that have forced the military leaders to overlook the role of women in the military. Moreover, women in the CAF face sexual and gender harassment or abuse from their male counterparts. Sexual harassment targeting women in military bases has become an issue of concern in recent years as more women get the opportunity to participate in military operations.
The paternalistic custodial management style in the CAF is also a significant barrier to women in the Armed Forces. This style of management has resulted in the exclusion of women from various military operations. It reached extreme extends that triggered societal pressure in the 1960s, forcing the CAF to turn to human resource policies that would ensure the inclusion of women in military operations. Another barrier faced by women in the CAF is the relegation to supporting roles (Kümmel, 2000). CAF’s ground-combat-arms occupations have continually pushed women away, and this has hampered their participation in other operations. Analysts opine that the Armed Forces consider women as mere tokens, a problem that is common in almost all military institutions in the Western world. The consideration has resulted in the mistreatment of women resulting in their withdrawal from military activities. Another challenge faced by women is their small percentage in the Armed Forces both in the senior rank levels and the direct combat specialties (Kümmel, 2000).
Similarly, visible minorities and other groups face a plethora of barriers in the CAF, and these have prevented their inclusion or recruitment to the same. The greatest barrier that these groups face is discrimination, which is of concern in almost all militaries. Although significant strides have been made regarding racial integration in the Armed Forces, the under-representation of the visible minorities and other groups underscores the existence of discrimination. As mentioned earlier, less than 6% of the CAF members come from visible minority groups and immigrants whose underrepresentation can be attributed to the citizenship requirement when it comes to joining the Armed Forces in Canada. Moreover, the number of officers from visible minority groups in high ranks is discouraging, and this means that they are still despised in the Armed Forces. Additionally, members of the CAF from visible minorities are physically harassed, and this underscores the high prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among them. This has been one of the major factors behind the under-representation of the minority groups, such as the Aboriginal people and blacks (Caforio, 2006). Besides, the lack of equality between the Canadian citizens and those from visible minorities in the Armed Forces is evident.
Considerably, for the access to facilities, such as health care and safe housing, preference is given to Canadians, a perspective that results in discouragement and disillusion in members from visible minority groups. Tight policies and regulations put in place by the Canadian government also jeopardize the involvement of individuals from visible minority groups in military operations. There is the citizenship requirement for non-Canadian citizens to join the Armed Forces, and this is has attracted resistance from the military members from the visible minorities and other groups. Like women, visible minority groups face the barrier of lack of diversity. The CAF has consistently failed to integrate or include more members of visible minority groups in various military operations. In Canada, the integration of blacks and other groups into the Armed Forces came later on, after the integration of Canadian citizens. The lack of diversity remains evident today, with visible minorities and other groups relegated to non-combat roles or duties. For a long time, the absence of legal measures to address this barrier has worsened the situation faced by visible minorities in the CAF.
How the CAF is addressing issues faced by women, visible minorities, and other groups
The efforts put in place by the Canadian Armed Forces to address or solve the barriers or challenges faced by women, visible minorities, and other groups cannot be ignored. The military being one of the most respected institutions seeks to change the negative perceptions of individuals. The racist practices targeting visible minorities and discrimination against women are some of the key barriers. In its bid to address the challenges, the Armed Forces came up with a Defense Opportunity Council Task Force, which was responsible for reviewing the racist and discriminatory practices in the army. The Task Force came up with recommendations that resulted in the solution of the mentioned barriers. First, the CAF provided housing free of discriminatory practices for men, women, visible minorities, and other groups. Second, the Army stepped up the recruitment of officers from visible minority and other groups, and this saw the increase of their representation from 6% to 10.1% (Caforio, 2006).
Besides, in addressing the diversity concern, the CAF has adapted and revised human resource philosophies, policies, practices, and programs. These have helped address the diversity concern as more representation of women, visible minorities, and other groups in the CAF has been witnessed in recent years. Arguably, the representation of women in the Army has increased drastically from less than 5% to over 10% in the last few years. A similar rise in percentage has been seen for the visible minorities and other groups. Together with other organizations, the CAF has held civil rights campaigns as well as social movements that have resulted in the formulation of legislations championing for the advancement of the rights of women in the military (Goldenberg, 2007). Primarily, equality of opportunity and social justice towards women and other visible minority groups have been witnessed in the CAF in recent years. The effectiveness of this can be highlighted in the removal of barriers to participation or involvement in military operations for women and visible minorities.
The CAF has deliberately pushed for the establishment of a powerful socialization system and processes, which have seen the creation and reinforcement of an appropriate culture where groups interact. Without a doubt, the effectiveness of the CAF’s move cannot be questioned as it has led to the development of cohesiveness, motivation of members of various groups, and has played an integral role in the success of military missions. The CAF has been at the forefront in pushing for the inception of internal policy debates, where military officers both men and women, and from every racial group maintain intentional social regimes. Undoubtedly, this move has ensured that all social and cultural groups are brought into the mainstream through the incorporation of their essential aspects. The CAF’s commitment towards addressing the barriers or challenges faced by women and visible minorities can also be seen in the development of personnel policies at the micro level of partial inclusion. Through these policies, there has been a reflection of the values and norms of the civilian society on the organization, management, and structure of the Canadian Armed Forces. The new structure has seen the inclusion of recruitment of members of every social, economic, and racial group. Apparently, this has played a fundamental role in the equality seen in the CAF today.
The Armed Forces has also shown its commitment to ending the barriers mentioned earlier by pushing for the implementation of policies that aim at consolidating working practices, establishing acceptable role models within the army, changing the existing culture, and building a new image of the CAF (Goldenberg, 2007). As a result, cohesiveness and cooperation among CAF members have been witnessed in recent years. More women and individuals from visible minority groups have shown their interest in joining the Armed Forces, and this contrasts the situation before where few people were interested in joining the institution. The CAF’s push for inclusiveness and heterogeneity has also played a significant role in addressing the barriers faced by women and visible minorities in the Armed Forces.
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