Students question in-school military recruitment

"we hear a lot of people promising us futures, and sometimes we don't get the whole story"

by James Forbes, GFSS Weekly Howl, The Gazette, Grand Forks BC, page 13 — Oct 18, 2006

Representatives from the Royal Military College visited GFSS as part of the school's College Liaison Day. The RMC was one of many post-secondary institutions participating in the Liaison, but the fact that they were recruiting for the military caused some student ot question their presence in the school.

Stepan Soroka, as well as two other GFSS students, decided that a message of peace should be heard in opposition to the messages presented by the military. They did this by handing pamphlets out to students as they came out of the RMC's presentation. Stephan is involved with the Boundary Peace Initiative, and disapproves of recruitment in schools, suggesting that they are presenting biased information in an effort to get students to sign up. When asked for opinions about in-school military recruitment, most students felt that the option should be available to those that wanted it. Others felt that the military was misleading students by promising them free education in exchange for years of service. "It's not so much when they do it [recruitment], but how they do it." Says Stepan. "On their pamphlets they have slogans like 'it's a world of opportunity' ... they also like to project an image of manliness among the soldiers."

Grade 11 student Tyler Hunt expresses a different view. Tyler is planning on attending a military college because it will provide him with the skills and training necessary to become a pilot, and at a low cost. "If I go through BCIT it's a lot more expensive. "Tyler says. He acknowledges that there is a catch to going through the military. "You have to sign. If they're going to educate you and spend the money, then you're pretty much in." But it is a catch which he readily accepts. Tyler says he expects to eventually do overseas service and possibly be involved in combat.

Sterling Battrick is another student who is planning on a military career, and he is already in the process of joining the reserves. Once he is signed up, he will receive training in a field of his choice, and will even be paid. When asked about overseas combat, Sterling was quick to explain that not everyone who joins the military is expected to fight. "As the reserves are only part-time, you will never be ordered to go overseas to danger, but you can volunteer to go overseas." He also stated that he has no intention of volunteering.

The fact that people are fighting at all is another heated issue among the politically-conscious students in the school. Many question Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, as well as the manner in which the recruiters portray such overseas missions. "They try to project a picture that we are stabilizing the country, that we are building the infrastructure, that we are helping civilians." Says Stepan. "But we are an occupying force."

Grade 12 student Dylan Lamontagne had qa differing opinion. "My impression is that there is less violence than some people think it to be." He says. He also said that the feels we are doing far better in Afghanistan than the US is doing in Iraq, seeing as how Canada has had only forty-two casualties in all five years that we've been there.

The debate will no doubt rage on. However controversial Canada's role in world-wide conflicts may be, it isn't the school's direct concern. What the school should be thinking about are the messages that the students are being sent. On Liaison Day we hear a lot of people promising us futures, and sometimes we don't get the whole story. It's great that there are a vast number of opionns available to students, but keep in mind that all students will call you sometime in the future. My advice. Shop carefully. 
Stepan Soroka also attends monthly BAQC meetings with other GFSS students concerned about local air quality and other environmental issues. The Wolf Report, January 2007

For action, check out the War Resisters League for a comprehensive counter military recruitment organizing manual for youth activities called 'DNZ: A Guide to Taking Your School Back from the Military'. Or call (212) 228-0450.
Back to The Inquirer
Back to