Canada’s military advised to go woke

By Mark Milke, May 28, 2022, National Review

After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February and its war on the same ever since, you would think that Western policy-makers would grasp how critical it is to ensure that our militaries are well-funded, well-equipped, and ready to defend our allies in NATO — just in case.

The United States, the United Kingdom, and other selected allies including the Baltic republics and Poland have grasped this; even neutral Finland and pacifist Sweden want to now join NATO in response to Russian aggression. Meanwhile in Canada? The military is being told to go “woke.”

A Canadian military report released a few weeks ago alleges that Canada’s military is shot through with “systemic” racism. It’s a typical claim from the woke Left that sees racism everywhere and gives it as a monocausal explanation for nearly every ill and observed disparity. This new report follows that path. It’s obvious in the title and subtitle, which is an accusation in addition to being verbose: “Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination, Final Report: With a focus on Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black Racism, LGBTQ2+ Prejudice, Gender Bias, and White Supremacy.”

The military-adviser authors of the report think that the most serious crisis facing Canada’s modern military is “systemic racism and discrimination, including anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, gender bias, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited people and others (LGBTQ2+), and white supremacy.” Elsewhere, the commission warned of “antisemitism, Islamophobia, and discrimination against people with disabilities.”

The report highlights these issues as the critical ones to be addressed, rather than, say, the chronic underfunding of Canada’s military since the 1960s, fighter jets that are three decades old, low morale, or the Canadian military’s inability to adequately handle domestic crises never mind square off in Europe against Vladimir Putin’s shock troops.

Though the four authors of the report are military veterans, they routinely insinuate that men and women in the military are one hate-thought away from donning a KKK hood.

Faulty Logic: Unequal Outcomes Equal Racism

Here’s one example of a drive-by smear and alleged proof of deep racism in Canada’s military: “The failure of the Defence Team to be representative of Canadian demographics is rooted in the system that was created by European settlers.” As proof, the report notes that minorities and women are “vastly underrepresented” in both the Canadian Armed Forces and in the bureaucracy in the Department of National Defence.

That is the typical claim offered up by those bad at statistical analysis: that when some cohort — such as the military — does not perfectly represent today’s statistical diversity in the general population, racism must be the reason, which is the view of the report’s authors. For them, à la Ibram X. Kendi, racism explains all.

The short response to this is an example offered long ago by Thomas Sowell. Historically, Italian expatriates dominated fishing fleets around the world relative to, say, the Swiss. The reason is simple: Italy is surrounded by water, and Switzerland is landlocked. Few Swiss would have been involved in fishing, so it’s natural that the Italians would have dominated in the fishing industry worldwide.

As with any snapshot of two cohorts in time, one micro and the general population, there may be a thousand other reasons the two do not match up exactly: geography, education, cultural and religious beliefs (Quakers are also underrepresented in the military because they’re pacifists), the role of parents, and other opportunities.

Then there is the question of time served: Of course, upper echelons of the military would be “whiter” because it takes decades to reach the high ranks. Until recently, Canada was mostly pale-faced, and if a mostly white population in the 1980s enrolled in the army, you’d expect today’s top brass to reflect 1980s and 1990s demographics, not the 2022 palette.

Incredibly, the report makes the claim of stark racism today despite acknowledging that 12,000 indigenous Canadians served in the First World War — and this in an era that was indeed systemically racist. (Indigenous Canadians were denied the right to vote until 1960.) What the service of those 12,000 reveals is that there was great interest by indigenous Canadians and great acceptance of the same in Canada’s military despite the prejudices common in that era.

The Canadian Military Report: Religion Is Trauma

The report not only accuses men and women in military uniforms and those who hired them of being bigots; it adds the accusation that those of a monotheistic bent belong to a genocidal faith.

Race issues aside, the report made waves in Canada because its woke retired military advisers ignored a key constitutional right in Canada: freedom of religion, including in the military. That right seems to annoy the report’s authors, who were clearly anti-Christian but also more generally anti-monotheism.

In a section of the report titled “Re-Defining Chaplaincy,” they give a nod to the notion that religion can be a source of solace for many — and then it’s off to a grand slur. “For some other Canadians,” the commission informs us, “religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma,” noting that this is “especially true for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited members of Canadian society.”

Few would argue that gay Canadians have never encountered prejudice; homosexuality was outlawed in Canada until 1968. But it’s a gross exaggeration to suggest that the modern-day Catholics, Protestants, and Jews in the military are a source of trauma to a soldier who happens to be gay. Most soldiers — they are trained to kill, remember — are not so fragile. Instead, we’re supposed to believe that the Canadian military is what — akin to the tiny Westboro Baptist Church, with its relentless, wacky anti-gay postures?

The Genocide Accusation: ‘Indian’ Boarding Schools Were Akin to Dachau

That’s not the worst part of this woke report. It moves on to accuse one faith, Christianity, of religiously inspired genocide: “Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders through initiatives such as Residential School and Indian Day School programs.”

The genocide reference is to boarding schools mainly (but not solely) for “Indian” children that were started in the 19th century in Canada and that lasted in some cases until the 1990s. Several federal reports on the schools have noted, properly, the physical and sexual abuse that occurred in some of the schools. But those experiences and the very existence of the schools themselves have now become generalized to condemn all who worked in them — Anglicans and Catholics at the start and government employees later — and the schools themselves. In addition, selected examples of cultural suppression in some schools are now equated by some commentators (and the military report’s authors) with genocide, as in “cultural” genocide. It’s a poor comparison, a slur, and one that egregiously borrows Holocaust language and imagery for politicized ends.

Your Foxhole Companion: Pray to Mother Earth

It’s not that the report’s authors lack faith. They tell us they began each day of their hearings and deliberations with prayer:

“…towards Mother Earth and her beautiful dress, towards the oceans, seas and rivers and all the creatures who live within them, towards vegetation and land-loving creatures as well as those who fly in the sky, and towards the Four Winds, our Elder Brother the Sun, our Grandfathers the thunder beings, our Grandmother Moon, and our Creator, however imagined.”

In a modern liberal democracy, one expects that religious plurality will exist in the military as it does elsewhere. Noticeably absent in this prayer is any theist invocation — say, any nod to the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths that constitute 71.5 percent of stated Canadian religious affiliation (67.2 percent Christian; 3.2 percent Muslim, and 1 percent Jewish). The same statistical survey noted that just 64,900 people were affiliated with traditional Aboriginal spirituality.

If soldiers want to follow the advice of military advisers-turned-woke-bureaucrats and pray to celestial objects like the moon, so be it. But one doubts that practicing theists — whether Catholics, Protestants, Jews, or Muslims — would take kindly to being told by politicians and their advisers that they should pray to the weather and to pagan gods rather than to their own chosen messiah and savior.

It’s religious intolerance and bigotry, in fact, that landed the report’s authors in hot water in Canada. The report clearly recommends that chaplains be banned from Canada’s military in the future unless they hew to the extreme woke diktats of the report’s authors. “Some chaplains represent or are affiliated with organized religions whose beliefs are not synonymous with those of a diverse and inclusive workplace,” they admonish.

As examples, they note women’s exclusion from the priesthood (they’re talking about your 1.3 billion followers, Pope Francis), or a belief in monotheism: “Certain faiths have strict tenets requiring conversion of those they deem to be ‘pagan,’ or who belong to polytheistic religions,” and whose beliefs and practices thus “conflict with the commitment of the Defence Team to value equality and inclusivity at every level of the workplace.”

Separate the Woke from the Unwoke: Ban the Clerics

Freedom of religion is supposed to mean that one can be a theist or a polytheist, and can choose one’s own clerical guide, and let God sort it all out later. Meanwhile, atheists and agnostics are supposed to be free to reject mystical beliefs altogether. But the commissioners can’t wait for eternity: They want the theist sheep and the polytheist goats, the unwoke and the woke, separated out now.

Thus, with respect to future clerical hires, the Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination sets this guideline for the Canadian government:

“If the Defence Team rejects gender discrimination, anti-Indigenous discrimination, and racialized discrimination in every other area and is working hard to remove systemic barriers to the employment of marginalized people, it cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership.”

Remarkably, the authors claim that their “Advisory Panel does not seek to evaluate or categorize these religions in this report” — though that’s exactly what the panel does. For them, monotheistic faiths have no place at the military table but should be banned from the premises. Here’s the clear message: Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim clerics and all who believe their faith is unique need not apply to Canada’s military — unless they’re prepared to undergo woke reeducation.

In sum, this report on Canada’s military was the most unserious, illiberal, anti-religious, bigoted piece of policy tripe to emerge from any NATO ally anywhere on the planet — and this while Russian bombs are landing on Ukrainian heads, schools, and churches, about which Canada’s underfunded military can do little.

To paraphrase the old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes, the four advisers to Canada’s military might agree with that sentiment; it’s just that they’d prefer that a praying soldier call out to Mother Earth rather than Father Mulcahy, and that a dying soldier be ministered to only by a woke high priestess.

Mark Milke is president of The Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy. His latest book is The Victim Cult: How the Grievance Culture Hurts Everyone and Wrecks Civilization.

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