Upon boarding the HMCS Charlottetown as part of an open visit and tour with other Canadian frigates in Toronto nearly two years ago, my interest in learning about the military and potentially joining sparked the excitement of an officer in the navy. Eyes open wide and lips curled in a smile, he said, “You’re a woman – that’s great! If you were an Aboriginal, now that would be even better.” Though spoken in a playful manner, these words reflect modern efforts by the Canadian military to attract and establish greater diversity within its ranks.

The effectiveness of such appeals and efforts, however, are questionable. This week’s video looks at the targets and realities of recruiting a more varied population. Despite the diversity within Canadian society, the military is still composed primarily of white men. But why exactly is the military having difficulty attracting a work force that reflects the diversity definitive of Canada?

Chris Alexander, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Defence, claims that progress is being made, despite unmet targets for Aboriginal and female recruitment. NDP Military Procurement Critic Matthew Calloway, however, argues that the government is doing poorly in the recruitment of Aboriginal peoples, one of the main groups the military is trying to attract. Even women in the military, despite their increasing presence, are still employed in traditionally feminine roles.

Such debate poses the questions: Does diversity within the military matter? Do the Canadian Forces even need to reflect the nation’s demographics in order to operate effectively and in the country’s best interests?