Canadian Forces Target Aboriginal Youth
“The Conference Board of Canada predicts that 920,000 First Nations people will be of working age in 2006… More & more are awakening to this realization, and are taking steps to recruit, train and retain First Nations people…”
(The Canadian Forces & Aboriginal Peoples, Special Edition, Winter 2003, p. 3)
Every summer, hundreds of Indigenous youth undergo military training. Not through Warrior Society’s organizing to defend their people, territories, and way of life, but through the military forces of the colonial regime. Today, the Canadian Armed Forces has several Aboriginal-focused training programs, including the CF Aboriginal Entry Program, Bold Eagle, Raven, and others. They consist of basic military training that incorporates elements of traditional culture. The first to be established was Bold Eagle:
“Bold Eagle is a partnership between the Department of National Defense, the Department of Indian & Northern Affairs, and First Nations from across the West. It has been conducted within Land Force Western Area since 1988. It has been expanded from its Saskatchewan origin to include participation by First Nations’ youth from all Western Canadian provinces & Northwestern Ontario.
“Bold Eagle consists of two parts: a five day Culture Camp followed by a military recruit training course… The culture camp is administered by Elders of different First Nations with the intent of facilitating the transition to military training… Military recruit training is instructed by military personnel. The skills taught include: basic military knowledge; weapons handling; navigation; first aid; drill; map & compass; and survival skills. All subjects are designed to promote the importance of teamwork…”
(Bold Eagle pamphlet, National Defense & Indian & Northern Affairs Canada)
The CF Aboriginal Entry Program consists of a 3-week Pre-Recruit Training Course (PRTC) which is designed to prepare Indigenous recruits for military life, and includes physical fitness, weapons handling, etc. This is followed by basic recruit training, held at the CF Leadership & Recruit School in Farnham/St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec (near Montreal). A specialized PRTC has also been developed in Yellowknife, taking into account the unique conditions of Aboriginals from the north. After PRTC, they are sent to Farnham for basic training. The CFAEP is primarily designed to funnel Natives into the regular forces.
Raven is one of the newest (est. 2003) and is run as the Aboriginal Youth Training Program under the authority of the CF Maritime Forces Command. It is modeled after Bold Eagle, and consists of a four day cultural camp followed by a one-month basic training course, held at CFB Esquimalt on south Vancouver Island in ‘BC’.
As part of this effort, Native soldiers tasked with recruitment are routinely sent into community events such as Pow Wows, Aboriginal Day celebrations, etc., to recruit Native youth into the military. This is often done in collaboration with event organizers.
For example, in 2005 & 2006, the Canadian Forces were actively involved in June 21st Aboriginal Day celebrations in Vancouver. In 2005, they set up a recruiting booth alongside a Coyote APC and distributed hundreds of posters & leaflets. The next year, they not only had a recruiting booth, but also supplied tents, chairs, tables, and served barbequed hamburgers to the crowd. In 2007, Native youth organizers in Vancouver organized against the CF recruiters and made a strong presentation against military recruitment. This time around, there were no recruiters at the event.
Cadet Corp Established in Hobbema
The Canadian Cadet system consists of Army, Air & Navy Cadet Corps across the country for youth aged 12-18. They provide basic military skills and are an important source of recruits for the Canadian Forces. Recently, this program has been expanded into Native reservations in an effort to recruit & indoctrinate Native youth and are known as Canadian Cadet Organizations (CCOs).
In 2005, a Community Cadet Corp was established among the four reserves known collectively as Hobbema, Alberta. It has been promoted as an effort to counter gang violence among Hobbema’s youth, which has become more & more frequent in recent years. The CCO was one part of a broader, $8 million strategy that also included the hiring of 9 additional RCMP officers for the Hobbema reserves.
In less than six months, the Hobbema Cadet Corp reportedly had over 700 young people sign up in a community of some 12,000, rapidly becoming one of the largest such Corps in Canada. The first CCO was established in Saskatchewan by RCMP Constable Rick Sanderson and now includes some 40 corps across the country. Sanderson also conducts courses for trainers, many of whom are also police officers. As a result, the RCMP have a strong presence in the Community Cadet Corps program.
Unlike other Cadet Corps, these CCOs are established with the collaboration of local band councils, who provide infrastructure & other resources. According to press reports, many parents have placed great hopes in the program as a way to deter their children from becoming involved in gangs, drugs & partying.
While this is understandable, it is not entirely correct. Instead of joining street gangs such as Indian Posse or Redd Alert, these youth have joined another, even larger & more deadlier gang: the Canadian Armed Forces. This gang is tasked with enforcing the will of the gang leaders (the government & corporations), who continue to loot & plunder not only Indigenous lands here, but also those of tribal peoples in Afghanistan & Haiti.
In regards to the image of a more ‘positive’ lifestyle, it should be noted that alchohol is a major part of military culture, from mess halls to the completion of training exercises, when crates of beer are routinely distributed. In addition, European military culture indoctrinates soldiers with imperialist ideology & blind obedience to authority. If deployed into combat, veterans are often traumatized upon their return and have difficulty reintegrating back into community life. As a result, many turn to alchohol & drugs in order to cope. Overall, there is little positive value in the military recruitment of Indigenous peoples, which is also a means of assimilation.
An Anti-Military Recruitment Strategy
What should be our strategy in regards to military recruitment of Native youth? There are two approaches which we should consider: co-optation & opposition.
Co-optation involves those who have already undergone such training but who have not joined the regular forces. For the most part, they are naïve, misinformed, and colonized. They require education that exposes them to the reality of colonialism & the existence of an Indigenous resistance movement, a movement where their warrior spirit is both validated & strengthened. These state-military recruits are potential recruits into our resistance movement but who require some level of decolonization.
Secondly, we must implement anti-recruiting measures to stop vulnerable Native youth from being recruited in the first place. This should involve not only educational materials & propaganda, but also the establishment of warrior societies capable of recruiting, training, and organizing Indigenous youth. This would strengthen our movement and provide an alternative to both state-military service & gangsterism (both of which
exploit traditional warrior culture).
CORPORATE MEDIA ARTICLE:
ABORIGINAL MILITARY TRAINING
Recruits bound for Bold Eagle Militia
by Kerry Benjoe
Leader-Post, July 8, 2006
A new list of recruits will be marching out on Sunday. Fifty-two aboriginal youth from northwest Ontario & the western provinces will be arriving in Wainwright, Alta., for six weeks of intense military training.
The Bold Eagle Militia Training Program—a partnership between various First Nations organizations, the Department of National Defense and Indian & Northern Affairs Canada—was established in 1988 to introduce aboriginal youth to military training.
“It is one of the success stories that has not been talked about,” said Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) vice-chief Lawrence Joseph, adding the program has been a huge success because “it’s an example of what First Nations can do.”
The program has evolved over its 18-year history, like moving from its original location at CFB Dundurn to Wainwright. It has also expanded to include all western provinces and northwest Ontario. Prior to 2005 the program was only available to status First Nations youth, but has since opened up to include all aboriginal youth including Metis & Inuit.
Despite the changes, the FSIN has remained the “mother” organization and is responsible for all the administrative work because Bold Eagle was developed in Saskatchewan.
Bold Eagle provides select youth with “meaningful summer employment” that they can use to launch any career, explained the vice-chief. Many graduates of the program have opted to start a career in the military.
Bold Eagle’s six-week course emphasizes culture, self-discipline, teamwork skills, physical fitness, and self confidence.
Prior to the military training, candidates participate in a week-long cultural camp conducted by First Nations elders. The military training is conducted by military personnel.
Bold Eagle is popular among youth and FSIN receives a large volume of applicants each year, but due to space limitations only a select few are chosen.