Canadian military pursues anti-racism policies despite 'lack of interest' from minorities

Defence department polling unveiled that most visible minorities consider the military a 'last resort' as a career option. 'As newcomers, they did not immigrate to Canada and endure hardship, so their children should join the military.'

Canadian military pursues anti-racism policies despite 'lack of interest' from minorities
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According to the Department of National Defence, Canada's military must embrace "critical self-reflection" on racism, privilege and "white fragility." 

An anti-racism report detailed by the ministry outlined steps for members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to examine the "ways that whiteness and white superiority become embedded in policies and processes."

"Racism and discrimination still manifest in our workplaces through bias, privilege, policies and power dynamics," said a companion Guide To Courageous Conversations On Racism And Discrimination. 

"The defence team must put compassionate effort into practice to actively become an anti-racist organization," it reads.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, the anti-racism guide claims, "we all have to do the work in shifting mindsets and promoting an inclusive workplace and acknowledge that together we're different."

"Critical self-reflection is key to understanding and unpacking seen and unseen assumptions and biases we have," said the report. 

The military must "ask racially and culturally grounded questions about yourself to increase awareness of seen [consciously known)], unseen [unknown] and unforeseen [anticipated] issues," it said.

Canada's Department of National Defence held conversations to tackle scrutiny over allegations of white supremacy in the military.

Andy Knight, a political scientist from the University of Alberta, received a grant earlier this year to produce a 25-minute documentary and devise policy suggestions from his findings on the "radicalization, antisemitism, xenophobia, and anti-black sentiments" in the country's military.

"Consider how history and politics shape or influence your personal experiences and that of colleagues within your organization," wrote defence staff. 

"Engaging in dialogue is the first step to understanding one another."

The professor claimed CAF's institutional racism is problematic because it provides white supremacists cover to pursue 'xeno-racism' against newcomers.

"Anybody coming into the system has to change themselves if they want to make it," said Knight, adding that individual cases of racism are "not the main problem." 

"If you're a black person and want to get ahead, you have to accept many things that you normally would not accept," he continued.

At a town hall hosted by the Department of National Defence last month, a Saint Mary's social justice professor told public sector executives that their implicit racial biases and white supremacy "completely infected" Canada. 

"White supremacy is a global problem that has completely infected our nation," said Rachel Zellers. "It comes in all shapes and sizes and cleans up real good."

The talk aligned with the department's growing obsession with tackling allegations of systemic racism within the armed forces.

As reported by Blacklock's Reporter, these conversations aim to raise awareness and consciousness "with hopes that a deeper understanding and empathy will lead to a commitment to shift mindsets and behaviours."

In May 2022, the Ministry of National Defence released a report documenting white supremacy as one of the more significant problems plaguing the Canadian military. 

The final report of the Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination includes a 15-page glossary defining terms such as "ableism," "cisgender," and "invisible disabilities." Within the 108-page report, its authors claimed the country is inherently racist and recommended that monotheistic religions like Christianity have no place in the military. 

"The failure of the Defence Team to be representative of Canadian demographics is rooted in the system created by European settlers," the report reads. Without corroborating evidence, it also claimed that Canada has "300 active far-right extremist groups" operating in the country.

The report recommended the military adopt discriminatory hiring practices that target specific religious organizations, including Christian religious leaders. 

"Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders through initiatives such as Residential Schools and Indian Day School programs," it reads.

In December 2021, the Department of National Defence held an "ask me anything" event on "white fragility." It shared "pertinent information related to allyship" and discussed how to dismantle systemic racism through several anecdotal accounts.

In the 2017 Strong, Secure, Engaged policy, the military established racial quotas to recruit visible minorities. By 2026, the quota must increase from 8% to 12%. 

The Royal Canadian Air Force Journal, in a 2020 commentary, said the higher quota is "almost impossible to achieve" as minority groups lack interest in military careers.

Defence department polling unveiled that most visible minorities consider the military a "last resort" as a career option. 

"They tend to see it as an oblique and arduous pathway to success," pollsters wrote in a 2014 report, Visible Minorities Recruitment And The Canadian Armed Forces. 

"As newcomers, they did not immigrate to Canada and endure hardship, so their children should join the military."

Despite the conclusions derived from the polling data, the CAF remains dedicated to unpacking anti-racism "to increase self-awareness and situational awareness to raise and address difficult or uncomfortable issues," according to the anti-racism report.

It added that members must "practice active listening," "assume good intentions," and "recognize people with good intentions can make statements that hurt or offend."

The report also mentions the importance of recognizing "white privilege," or "unearned power, benefits, advantages, access or opportunities based on membership in a dominant group," and "white fragility," which is "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable for white people triggering a range of defensive moves."

"Some audiences can walk away believing our healthcare, criminal justice or education systems work fine and therefore differing outcomes exist because Indigenous, Black and other racialized groups are doing something wrong," it said. 

"Know the counter-narratives. Understand what happens in people's heads when we try to start a productive conversation."


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