10 Years Ago: Has It Really Changed?

Forces hiring to mirror Canada’s diversity

Defence Chief Hillier promises new vision for country’s military

Mike Blanchfield – The Ottawa Citizen – April 15, 2005

The military will launch a vigorous campaign to recruit more visible minorities to make the Forces more reflective of Canada’s ethnic diversity, Defence Chief Gen. Rick Hillier said yesterday.

Gen. Hillier announced the initiative in a wide-ranging speech in which he laid out key elements of his “vision” for transforming the Forces, taking swipes at ineffective past military leadership and positioning the military as Canada’s primary foreign-policy tool.

 

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Gen. Hillier’s speech comes as the Martin government plans to unveil its long-awaited international policy statement next week, which will lay out how the military, diplomats, international aid and the business-trade agenda plan to work with a single voice to further the country’s foreign policy interests.

“Actions will speak louder than words. Now, we deploy around the world — yes, with our values — but because of our interests,” he told a trade show of the Canadian Defence Industries Association.

Those interests are centered on rebuilding failing states, such as Afghanistan, to avoid a repeat of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that brought the instability in Central Asia to the United States. Gen. Hillier said the Forces’ missions would be centred on winning the “three-bloc war”: establishing stability, protecting vulnerable civilians and stopping any enemy that tries to thwart that mission.

And the image of Canada is that its military projects abroad must be as ethnically diverse as the country back home, Gen. Hillier said.

Opening a Pandora’s Box that haunted military leaders in the 1990s, Gen. Hillier said he wants to leverage the government’s commitment to expand the Forces by 5,000 full-time and 3,000 part-time reserve personnel to bolster the ranks of visible minorities.

“Our population has to look at us and see themselves in us,” Gen. Hillier said.

“We’re going to start tilling the ground in the immediate weeks and months ahead here to go into those ethnic communities across Canada,” he said, adding the military will seek the “percentages required” to find ethnic groups that are under-represented in the military.

Gen. Hillier did not offer precise figures of the current ethnic makeup of the Forces.

The Forces were ordered by a Federal Court ruling in 1989 to increase the percentage of women, visible minorities and aboriginals, but continued to receive failing grades a decade later for not meeting “quotas” — a concept that also elicited controversy as being too politically correct.

In his speech to hundreds of military contractors and business leaders, Gen. Hillier mixed humour that poked fun at his own Newfoundland heritage with a sharply provocative comment about the need to make the Forces more relevant to Canadians, from the steelworker in Hamilton to the Saskatchewan farmer.

“We’re not seeking consensus. Consensus is nice to have,” he cautioned. “Sometimes in the past, I felt consensus was actually a replacement for leadership in the Forces.”

Gen. Hillier tore up the defence review penned by his predecessor, Gen. Ray Henault, which was viewed by some military commanders as a tired rehash of old ideas.

Gen. Hillier pledged the defence review would not be “a vision of the past in a new framework” — his clearest dig to date at Gen. Henault and the other military leaders he succeeded.

Gen. Hillier won the confidence of Defence Minister Bill Graham and Prime Minister Paul Martin, and was widely credited for helping the Forces secure their biggest budget increase in decades in February — $12.8 billion over five years.