Below is Matt Gurney’s article from the National Post “Bridging the civil-military divide”
Bridging the civil-military divide
Beginning this fall, 20 to 40 students at the University of Alberta will have the option of working to become members of the Canadian Army while also studying to earn their selected degree. This is a long overdue revival of a Canadian military tradition that has been absent from our campuses for 45 years.
In many Western nations, including Britain and the United States, the military retains a small but meaningful presence on campus. Students complete their course work while also taking the classes and completing the physical training required to join their chosen branch of the military. Canada once had a system like this — the Canadian Officer Training Corps (COTC) — which was founded shortly before the First World War. Men enrolled in the program were full-time students at Canadian schools who also studied military life and took part in drills on campus.
They were not learning to fight battles — combat training is too intense to do for only a few hours a week. But they were learning about military history and philosophy, regulations, law and the technical skills required to serve as an army officer. The program was a cost-effective way of instilling useful skills and leadership training in young men (and later women), and of maintaining a link between Canadian students and the country’s armed forces. COTC remained in operation until 1968, when it was scrapped as part of the reorganization of the Canadian military under then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau that led to the deeply disruptive unification of the Army, Navy and Air Force into a unified Canadian Forces.
The negative impact of unification on the Canadian military — to morale most especially — has been well studied by military historians, and effectively undone by successive governments. Yet the effect of cancelling COTC was largely ignored for decades. But in 2006, the Breakout Network, a charitable educational group with an interest in public, particularly defence, policy, began a campaign to re-establish a version of COTC on Canadian campuses. This would not only aid the Canadian military by providing a ready pool of educated students with a keen interest and understanding of the military, but would also bring the military back to the forefront of Canadian public life.
While Canadians support the troops, they rarely think of them. Most Canadian military installations are in distant rural areas, far from where most Canadians live. Many Canadian university students may have never met an actual member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Some of these students will go on to achieve considerable professional success in business and government without having more than the barest glimmer of understanding, or interest, in the Armed Forces.
This has meant that for two generations now, while Canadians may have warm feelings for the troops, they have little knowledge about how the military operates, what its needs are and why a strong national defence remains important even for a peaceful country like Canada. The Breakout Network hoped that by bringing some military connections back onto campus, even students who chose not to participate in the program might benefit from knowing someone who did.
While Canadians may have warm feelings for the troops, they have little knowledge about how the military operates
After years of persistent lobbying, they were able to convince the Armed Forces that it was worth a shot: On Monday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced that the University of Alberta would host a pilot program beginning this fall. Students will still pay full tuition, and study whatever their course requires of them. But they will also join the Army as reservists. During the academic year, one night per week and one weekend per month, the students will study and train with the Canadian Army in Edmonton. During the summers, they will undergo more intense training for periods lasting up to 12 weeks. The students will be paid the normal rate for a reservist, which will make paying their tuition an easier task.
At the end of their education, the students will be under no obligation to remain in the Army. Even if they choose not to, they will still have developed an understanding of military life. As they continue on to their next professional challenge, they will retain that understanding, and will hopefully become advocates for the Canadian military — something this country has far too few of.
The pilot program announced Monday will last for four years. If successful, it may be rolled out at other interested educational institutions. Hopefully this happens. Such a program has been too long absent from Canada, and will help narrow the gap between the public and those who work to defend it.
#Breakout #Breakoutnetwork #cndpoli #PolicyYouCanSee