Canadian military moving to "aggressive approach" on recruitment

With the number of Canadian soldiers going AWOL increasing, and the Canadian military playing an increasingly aggressive role in Afghanistan and Haiti, the Canadian military too seems to have problems recruiting new soldiers. According to the "London Free Press", "[t]he number of Canadian soldiers who have gone absent without leave has doubled in the last six years... Records obtained through access to information show 708 troops were convicted of going AWOL in 2005 - more than twice the 340 convicted of the offence in 2000. Numbers show a sharp rise after 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks propelled Canada's military into a more dangerous, combative role abroad."

As a response, the Canadian military is launching 'Operation Connection' to increase the number of recruiters. General Hillier made the aims of Operation Connection clear at a defence association conference in February 2006: "We've got to make recruiting every service man and woman's business and I mean this. Going from 300 recruiters at present to very quickly 30,000 recruiters and then eventually to 80,000 recruiters touching every community, geographical and ethnic, in Canada. And we're moving from a passive approach on recruiting where essentially we sat around waiting for you to come to us to a more active and aggressive one...".

The Canadian peace movement is countering 'Operation Connection' with 'Operation Objection', which aims to spark an urgently needed national counter-recruitment campaign.

Recently, Francisco Juarez, a Canadian soldier until recently, became the first Canadian soldiers to speak out against Canada's war in Afghanistan. According to a report by CTV, Francisco Juarez refused to walk onto an obstacle course during a training session earlier this year at Gagetown, N.B., and told his commanding officer: "I no longer wish to participate."

He was dragged before several army captains, told he would feel like a failure for the rest of his life, and threatened with a court martial and possible jail time.

The military relented somewhat. They fined the B.C. native $500 and discharged him without honour.

But Juarez doesn't regret his disobedience for a second.

He says he was being groomed to become a second lieutenant and would have been in Kandahar by early next year.

"Morally I could have sat back and said, 'You're paid to do a job. Just do it and shut up.' But I decided I couldn't," he said in an interview Saturday.

"I began to ask myself: Could I give orders to subordinates that would result in them dying for a mission I did not believe in?"

Juarez joined the navy in 2002, lured by the promise of a steady salary. He got a transfer to the reserves last year because it allowed him more time to complete his justice-studies degree at Royal Roads University.

By the end of his first week of training this spring at Gagetown, where he carried a rifle all day long and learned about handling grenades, Juarez knew he wanted out.

Juarez was discharged over the summer 2006.

Sources: operationobjection.org, CTV: Former reservist refused to serve in Afghanistan, 9 September 2006.