April 10, 2007

First Nations Recruiting by the Canadian Forces

First Nations Recruiting by the Canadian Forces
In Conversation with Laura Holland

April 2, 2007. Mordecai Briemberg

The Canadian military is on the hunt for new
recruits. They are setting
bait for First Nations children as young as sixteen,
and Laura Holland’s
two sons wanted to sign-up. Laura, who comes from
the Wetsuweten Nation
near Smithers BC, convinced them otherwise. Laura
Holland is a member of
the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter

First they target social gatherings…

“It was actually through the kids that I first heard
about the military
recruitment campaign. About two years ago. My sons
and several of their
friends had been approached at a community center
and they’d also been
approached at aboriginal day.”

Then they target the schools…

“I didn’t hear about the program through the school
itself until just
recently. I can’t say that it was the Vancouver
School Board itself that
introduced this idea to me or gave this pamphlet to
me, but it was one of
the employees at the school. She had been given some
recruiting pamphlets
and was convinced this was a good idea and started
to distribute them to
first nations families.”

The hook is baited with money and native culture…

“I have a really difficult time just looking at the
pamphlet because of
the way it’s set up. It’s offering children as young
as 16 money of
course. At the end of a two month summer camp you
get paid $3,000, that’s
$1,500 a month. It offers military training, offers
to teach young people
how to handle artillery, military life. The
program’s called “Bold Eagle”
and the cultural component starts in the first week,
for four days. It
teaches a lot of things many of us don’t believe in
-- multicultural
killing is still killing!”

There’s not a lot that would stop a 16 year-old from

“The way those pamphlets read there’s very little
that would stop any
child as young as 16 from actually going into this
program. All that’s
required is grade 10. The kid needs to be physically
fit and a Canadian
citizen, have a high school transcript, social
insurance card and a birth
certificate. What they’re offered is transportation
to Wainwright Alberta
and when they’re there they’re offered military
clothing, required
equipment, meals, accommodation. It does say you
don’t have to commit to
the military, but they strongly encourage graduates
to continue with the
Canadian forces.”

Then the cutbacks…

“A couple years ago our community started to really
feel a lot of the
cutbacks, started to feel the pressures of not
having any money. We saw
many programs that were disappearing from the
community. There was not a
lot of training that was being offered to first
nations youth, and there
weren’t any programs specifically geared to first
nations that were free
and accessible. A lot of the kids were hiding
themselves, feeling more and
more destitute; as they were getting older, hitting
their teens and their
late teens many kids were becoming homeless, many
first nations youth were
beginning to hit the streets because they had no
where else to go. A lot
of these children also were just beginning to
[leave] group homes and the
foster care system.”

Depressed and afraid…we talked…

“At first I was really quite depressed. I was really
afraid. I had to sit
with my sons and have a conversation and ask them
why they wanted to join
the military. And of course they told me why – and
it was out of
desperation. What they were informed was they could
get an education, have
some training, have a job, have somewhere to be,
somewhere to go.

“At the same time I had to say, listen my son this
is who you are, you are
a first nations youth and you have to understand why
you were feeling so
desperate and so destitute. You have to understand
who put you in this
situation in the first place. You have to understand
your history. So I
needed to sit with my sons and explain to them
things like the Indian Act.
I had to explain to them this was used as a tool to
control first nations
people, that this was meant to be a temporary tool
to assimilate first
nations people. I also had to let them know there
were very few rights
that we had because of this Indian Act. So there is
a whole history and a
lot of information I needed to tell my kids so they
could understand that
what they were choosing was not the right thing and
not for the right
reasons. I had to explain that an education, housing
and work – those are
the kinds of things the Canadian government has
promised people in the
first place. They shouldn’t have to promise to go to
war, they shouldn’t
have to kill or to die, in order to have housing or
an education and a

And what side of the fence…

“Because of their age, they at first hadn’t really
thought all that much
about the role the military plays in Canada. What
they remember because of
their age is Gustafson Lake and they remember Oka.
Those are the most
recent events that they can recall. I had to talk to
them about what roles
the RCMP played there, and what role the Canadian
forces have played there
also. So it was not just a matter of talking about
war and the Canadian
forces. It was also talking about consciousness
raising, about who they
were, what side of the fence they’re actually on.”

We have a long history of first nations veterans…

“I also needed to remind them we have a long history
of first nations
veterans, that we honour as elders, who had gone to
wars. But when they
came back they didn’t enjoy the same benefits as
other war veterans. In
fact, they had lost whatever rights they had had
under the Indian Act.

“There is a couple of different things in play in
the early 1900’s. There
was a war that was happening in South Africa. In the
early 1900’s there
were men returning from that war, the Boer war vets
were returning. They
were given different things like land and pensions
and taken care of. At
that same time first nations people were being put
on reserves and
whatever rights they had was completely governed by
the Indian Act. They
didn’t really have any rights. By the time the
second world war was
happening, if a first nations person was to go to
war what they had to do
first was enfranchise themselves as a Canadian
citizen, because at that
time first nations people weren’t considered
Canadians. We weren’t
considered citizens. So if a man or a woman wanted
to enlist that meant
giving up whatever Indian rights that they were
entitled to. Upon their
return they didn’t enjoy the same benefits, they
didn’t get pensions, or
compensation, they didn’t have land rights and they
also weren’t
reinstated the Indian rights they had given up
before they left. This had
a profound effect on the women and children who were
left behind because
if a man had given up his status as an Indian in
Canada it meant the whole
family lost their status. And this had a profound
effect on many of the
following generations.”

And there’s a connection…

“The first thing that I want to do with my sons is
explain our position
here in Canada and what our reality is, what our
lived experience is. I
explain to them that this is an occupied country. So
we don’t want to
contribute to the violence and oppression of women
and children in other
occupied countries – because women and children are
who are affected first
and foremost.”

*Mordecai Briemberg interviewed Laura Holland on the
“Redeye” radio
program March 17th. Redeye is an interview based
public affairs and
cultural program broadcasting every Saturday morning
from nine a.m. to
noon on Vancouver Cooperative Radio 102.7 fm. The
program also is streamed
live and interviews are posted on Rabble podcasts .
Checkout the options
at www.coopradio.org/redeye.

Guest post. Received this in a listerve, as well as fwd's. It's something I wanted to bring to light, and a great article on recruitment of Indigenous youth for Canada's war games and continual assimilation of Indigenous in to KKKanadian way of life.


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