Soldiers. With pamphlets. Recruiting. In our schools

Save us, Maude Barlow!

Earlier this month, the Council of Canadians got their collective knickers in a twist over the prospect of the Canadian Forces recruiting at high schools, colleges and universities.

In fact, they have even conducted “outreach” at elementary schools. As reported by CBC.ca on June 15, 2007, “The Canadian Forces have been touring schools in the St. John’s area this week, as part of an outreach program.” The story reports that a Grade 3 “class at Holy Cross Elementary school (in Holyrood, Newfoundland) were given a
first-hand show-and-tell session with a tank and related gear.”

Brent Patterson, “ACTION ALERT: Stop military recruiting in our schools“.  Council of Canadians website, November 2nd, 2007.

I think this is the CBC story they were referring to, but could not be bothered to link.  The military life is not everyone’s cup of tea, I admit, but the father is clearly out of his depth when he characterises the visit as recruitment.  Especially when one considers that kids in Grades 4, 5 and 6 will not be eligible to enlist for another 5-7 years, minimum.  When I was in elementary school we got visits from TTC buses, fire trucks, police cars and a McDonald’s coach bus.  I’m not sure any of us came away from these visits with the burning need to pursue any of the careers on display.  Though I did (and still do) have a burning need to get one of those free cardboard models of a TTC bus or streetcar; the one I received in Grade Four got crushed on the walk home.

But wait, it gets even better.

Andrew Cash wrote in the May 25, 2006 issue of Toronto’s NOW magazine, “In both Toronto’s public and Catholic boards, the (military co-op program) pays kids to join the Reserves, gives them four high school credits and trains them in, among other soldiering arts, machine gun shooting and grenade throwing…The crisp military brochures most guidance offices make available to students talk up the career aspects of the military while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room: the fact that a soldier is trained to kill and die on command. Do we really want a merging of public education and military objectives when it appears we have no national consensus on our new U.S.-inspired war aims.”

This might be news to Mr. Cash, but enrolment in the military’s high school co-op program is very much predicated on 1) good grades and 2) parental consent, since minors cannot sign away their lives on their own authority.  Soldiering is paid work, funnily enough, so yes, the students draw a cheque for their efforts.

Further, the soldiering arts of shooting accuracy and grenade drill are an inseparable part of basic training known as BMQ/SQ (Basic Military Qualification/Soldier Qualification).  These courses are mandatory for anyone in a Land trade.  Mechanics, engineers, drivers, you name it.  Before you get anywhere near your specialised trade, every CF enlistee or officer completes BMQ.  Land trades then complete the SQ course before moving on to their specialist school.

In other words, the high school military co-op course gets the student through the basic training required of all CF enlistees.  Oh, the humanity.  Who will stop the onslaught of co-op trained adolescent killbots?  Maude, pass the smelling salts.

My favourite part of this action alert are the cautiounary examples culled from various print media:

* The London Free Press reported on October 19, 2007, “One Grade 12 student irked by (a) military event at South secondary school has received permission from administrators to hold a simultaneous anti-war event in another part of the school…He said that earlier this week it looked as if his counter-recruitment event — he asked the school for permission last week — wouldn’t be allowed…”

Look how the BushHarperCo war machine is stifling dissent amongst our young people.  Rise, young men and women and sing the music of a people that will not be slaves again.

Of course, the Council of Canadians declines to mention that the objecting student got to hold his counter-recruitment event after all.  That would spoil the narrative.

* As reported by London Indymedia on February 24, 2007, “the Canadian military has been drastically increasing their presence at Fanshawe (College in London, Ontario)…All year, recruiters have been setting up booths and tables inside our college, convincing us to join the military instead of pursuing our own dreams for which we are in college in the first place.” …

If a recruiter manages to dissuade you from pursuing your life-long dream career, then I submit that one’s reservoirs of dedication and perseverence were never particularly deep.

Heaven forbid that one’s lifelong dream is to actually join the military.  I knew from Grade Six onward that it was my preferred career—this despite an entire lack of at-school military recruiting.  And mother’s prohibition against anything resembling a toy gun—including Star Wars blasters and the like.

* And as reported by the student newspaper The Manitoban Online in 2006, “While some Canadian universities remain unconcerned about the militarization of student space, others are more critical. Students at UBC are currently organizing to resist the presence of recruiters.  Concordia University in Montreal has a policy banning military recruitment on campus entirely, and the Link, Concordia’s independent student newspaper, includes the Canadian Forces on its advertising boycott list.”

The militarization of student space?  Students are compelled to obey military discipline, to learn warrior arts, and to serve their country against their own will?

No, I think not.

These students are asked to endure the temporary presence of up to six recruiting staff—on a campus built to accommodate thousands.  No one is being compelled into warfighting, any more than a half-dozen homeless people at King and Bay compel the descent of the tower-dwellers above into base vagrancy.

It is a safe bet that less than 1% of the student body at any given civilian university can tell you what the Queen’s Regulations and Orders are, and whether or not civilians are bound by them.  When I see students being arraigned and charged with striking a superior, desertion, disgraceful conduct or drunkenness, then I will believe that militarization of the academy is at hand.

Until then, simmer down Council of Fussbudgets.  The terrifying Thousand-Year Rural Reich has not engulfed us just yet.

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5 Responses
  1. gorthos says:

    Here here old bean!
    As soon as my parents divorced in grade 9, I, the child not allowed gun toys, signed up for Cadets (with my ex mil sniper dad signing the papers). In grade 12, it was the militia (in this case it was my grandfather who signed, dad was by now iffy). Were it not for the protestation of my first wife (hock tooey) I would now be about the prime age to almost retire from my position of naval electronic technician tactical. Or more likely, like all my buddies, I’d be an officer for many years by this date.
    Its not like the Cdn forces are scouring poor downtrodden neighborhoods trying to boost up numbers of soldiers by pestering unemployed urban youth. Its not like the military here is rife with unintelligent boobs who cannot get a job otherwise. Our military folk are intelligent, well trained, moralistic and ethical and damn it all, they want to do the job they do.
    I’d rather the military recruit in my schools than Al Quaeda thank you very much SIR.

  2. DCardno says:

    All year, recruiters have been setting up booths and tables inside our college, convincing us to join the military instead of pursuing our own dreams…
    Unlike the accounting and law firms, the various construction trades, IBM, Microsoft, GM, and all the other typical booths and presentations at job fair / career fair events. Is there a cogent reason why a legal employer (in fact, a direct servant of Her Majesty) should not be entitled to the same opportunity to inform students as any other organization? I thought not.

  3. gorthos says:

    Oh yes, the Trades. Speaking of such, I am much more annoyed that the persons representing the Trades are recruiting. I recognize we have a shortage of skilled workers but going to high schools to convince kids to NOT go to University or college and instead do high paid labour is just wrong. We DO have a lot of persons who are unemployed. THEY are the people needing “recruitment” into trades. argh.. now I’m all annoyed.

  4. lrC says:

    The notion that reserve co-op service teaches a person how to kill, die, or anything resembling a military “art” is risible, even if the recruit is lucky enough to complete BMQ and SQ before enough months pass to render the age issue irrelevant. Throwing a couple of baseballs doesn’t make one a pitcher, and seeing a car and hearing an internal combustion engine described don’t make one a driver.

  5. Chris Taylor says:

    While I largely agree, I think the Council of Canadians would argue that it doesn’t take a genius or any particular training to be able to kill unarmed civilians. Marc Lépine/Gamil Gharbi and Kimveer Gill, for example. Nor does it take any special skill to die.
    My take is that someone who goes through BMQ/SQ successfully is probably going to be at lower risk of committing gun crimes. They won’t be (as the Council desires) an unspoiled innocent unschooled in the use of firearms, but they’ll also, critically, have some training in context and proper employment of arms.
    Who is safer? The infant who knows nothing of energy, physics or electrical plugs? Or the apprentice electrician who knows what they are, knows they can be dangerous, and has some idea of how to install/uninstall them without killing himself?