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Column: More than they can give

For those young people out there looking for work, the Canadian military is hiring. In fact, they’ve been recruiting aggressively for quite some time now.

For young people looking for work, the Canadian military is hiring.

In fact, they’ve been recruiting aggressively for quite some time now. Starting with the federal government’s promise back in 2017 to expand our country’s armed forces, almost every arm of our military has been looking for recruits.

The promise made sense at the time because today’s conflicts aren’t only fought on the ground, at sea or in the air. Today’s threats also come via cyber attacks and potentially, space. Younger people who have grown up during a time of significant advancements in cyber technology would certainly be welcome additions.

Nobody wondered or questioned the lack of young people considering the Canadian military as a career option in 2018 or 2019. Jobs elsewhere were plentiful and many people were simply replacing those who were looking at leaving.

But when 2020 came along, that should have been a prime opportunity for our government to fill all the necessary roles required to defend our nation.

With the national average of unemployment hovering around 10 per cent over the majority of the last year, you would think the military would be an attractive option to the young demographic that has been most affected by a year that saw a pandemic limit employment opportunities. With unemployment as high as 12 per cent throughout the last year in some parts of our country, you would assume those areas would have lineups at their local military recruitment offices. Yet, that is not the case.

As of the end of 2020, our military was approximately 2,000 people short for regular force members and 5,000 short for reservists. That means we only have about 90,000 military personnel protecting our borders and helping out with conflicts in other lands. Our government tells us the pandemic limited the ability to train new recruits. But any new recruits would be subject to the same protocols as active members, so in my view, that really makes no sense.

I have an alternative theory.

We, as a nation, have done a poor job of looking after our veterans. We have failed to provide appropriate support to those who endured PTSD and other mental illnesses caused directly by events they participated in while in service to our country.

We have failed to ensure appropriate health-care for those who made sacrifices through service to our country. We have failed to ensure the financial wellbeing of their families. We have failed to ensure the wellbeing of their children.

We have all seen numerous news clips and articles about disabled veterans who have to fight their own government for adequate care and a dignified lifestyle. We’ve read of homeless veterans, we’ve donated to veteran’s food banks. Beyond Nov. 11 each year, we as a nation have done a poor job of showing any real gratitude to those who served on our behalf.  What, if anything, does our nation provide that would attract young people to even consider joining the military as a viable career?

At a town hall in 2018, retired corporal Brock Blaszczyk, who lost his left leg in Afghanistan in 2009, confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about his promise not to fight veterans in court over returning disability pensions to veterans. Yet despite Trudeau’s promise, the government still fought the veterans in court. The prime minister justified the fight by saying “Why are we still fighting against certain veterans’ groups in court? Because they’re asking for more than we are able to give right now.”

I suspect young people are smarter than our government gives them credit for. Why would they apply to work in dangerous conditions when there is absolutely no promise of dignity or wellbeing for them or their family? I suspect Trudeau had it backwards, and our government is asking for more than our young people are willing to give right now.