Canadian Armed Forces wants more visible minorities, Indigenous people in military

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      Maj. Alexandre Munoz says that the Canadian Armed Forces is marching toward its goal of increasing diversity among its ranks.

      “We’re heading there,” Munoz, a public-affairs officer with the military’s recruiting group, told the Georgia Straight by phone while aboard HMCS St. John’s.

      The frigate is on its annual Great Lakes deployment, and according to Munoz, it’s an opportunity for people thinking of joining the navy to explore the warship during its port calls.

      Munoz noted that 5,139 individuals joined the military in fiscal year 2018-19.

      Of this total, 654, or 12.7 percent, were visible minorities. Indigenous recruits numbered 171, accounting for 3.3 percent.

      Canada is a multicultural country that has gained a lot from diversity. However, the military is not representative of the nation’s population. Based on the 2016 census, visible minorities made up more than 22 percent of the population, and Indigenous people made up almost five percent.

      As of February 2018, the regular and primary reserve force of the Canadian military numbered 93,953.

      The figure includes 7,569 individuals from ethnic minority groups, representing 8.1 percent. There were 2,566 Indigenous men and women in uniform, or 2.7 percent.

      These numbers were cited in a June 2019 report by the committee on national defence of the House of Commons. Titled Improving Diversity and Inclusion in the Canadian Armed Forces, the document stressed the importance of women, visible minorities, Indigenous people, and members of the LGBTQ community in the military.

      “In today’s complex security environment, a diverse military is viewed as a strategic advantage,” the report stated.

      The report noted that the country’s top general, Jonathan Vance, set 10-year targets to increase the participation of diverse groups. For visible minorities, it’s 11.8 percent by 2026, up from the 2016 level of 6.7 percent. Indigenous people are hoped to constitute 3.5 percent of the military by 2026, up from 2.6 percent in 2016.

      As Munoz mentioned, some progress is being made. The committee report noted that as of January 2019, visible minorities represented 8.7 percent of the military, and Indigenous people 2.8 percent.

      According to Munoz, many probably don’t realize that life in the military isn’t just about warfare. He pointed out that there are 106 occupations in the Armed Forces, including cooks, drivers, and various technicians.

      He related that, especially during overseas deployments, Canadian military units operate like a “small city” that needs to be supported by soldiers knowledgeable in different trades.

      Born and raised in Quebec City, Munoz joined the Armed Forces in 2000, thinking that he wanted to get some experience in the military before transitioning to a civilian job. He stayed on.

      In addition to English and French, Munoz speaks Spanish, which he got from his Cuban-born father. It’s an example of the rich cultural traditions present in the Canadian military.

      “My mother is from Canada. My father is from Cuba. So my background is both Latin American and Canadian,” Munoz said.