End the Curriculum of Killing: Canadian High School Students Now Earn Credits Learning to Shoot Machine Guns

Tell Your School Boards: No "Cooperative" Placements with the Canadian Armed Forces

April, 2006 -- The federal government of Stephen Harper, along with school boards across the country, are sending teenagers a decidedly mixed message these days. On the one hand, kids are told to stay away from guns in their communities, a warning that's backed by a law-and-order agenda of prison, prison, and more prison for any kid who screws up.

However, if you DO like guns and want to learn how to kill people in communities half a world away, you can actually earn not only high school credits, you can also get paid for it. Increasingly, through the auspices of high school co-op placement programs, 16-year-olds can sign up with the Canadian Forces, an outfit whose big boss, General Rick Hillier, makes no bones about goals and benchmarks: "We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to be able to kill people."

Bored with school in, say, Southern Ontario's Cayuga Secondary School? Check out the Cooperative Education program, where students can snore through the coop with Ontario Hydro and learn about some old guy named Adam Beck, or they can live out the fantasies portrayed to them through the fast-action Canadian Forces war propaganda ads they now see on TV and film screens by signing up with "Army Coop."

"Army training will teach you basic skills - marching, and saluting; rank structure; military law; how to wear your uniform and conduct yourself; and first aid," the website for the school program states. "You will then progress to field training. You will learn how to safely operate and maintain your C-7 service rifle, and the C-9 light machine gun. You will fire all these weapons with blank (practice) and live ammunition. You will also learn how to live for extended periods in the field. During the course, you will spend about two weeks on the ranges and in the field, for which you are paid about $1,400."

Shooting machine guns? Handling grenades? And getting paid for it? How awesome can that be when you're a teenager????

Check out any co-op program in high schools across the country and you are likely to find an existing or prospective placement program with the Canadian Armed Forces. The Toronto District School Board, Canada's largest, has a program with the Canadian military, and it is quite likely wherever you are, a similar program exists.

At a time when the issue of school violence continues to grab headlines, why are schools reaching out to and embracing the very institution which, more than any other, represents the use of violence and killing as a means of conflict resolution? And at a time when Canada's armed forces are desperate to sign up young people, why are school boards offering up tender 16-year-olds as fresh bait for indoctrination in the ways of war?

The program has drawn some controversy in Windsor, Ontario, where a group called Women in Black has spoken out against it. "We don't look at this program as an opportunity -- we look at it as a death sentence," spokesperson Marilyn Eves told the Windsor Star April 15. Eves, a retired teacher, asked, "What is the future for these kids? They're going overseas to fight and some of them are going to die." She told the paper that students are likely to be seduced away from non-paying cooperative placements by the promise of pay, medical and dental coverage, and four credits toward their diplomas. "It's a huge enticement. It's an obvious bribe."

Grade 10 students in Collingwood recently received a visit from a soldier who went through the military co-op program, calling it one of the best things that ever happened to her. The cutline beneath a picture of the soldier read: "Master Corporal Brienna Ross-Hood recently spoke to the Grade 10 class at Collingwood Collegiate Institute attempting to recruit the youth into the army reserve co-op program."

"She belongs to the infantry, which is the core of the army and referred to as fighting soldiers," the story stated. "'We're sort of the weapons specialists in the military,' she said. 'I absolutely love taking all the weapons apart and cleaning them.'" The article noted: "Students who chose to take the co-op program are guaranteed full-time summer employment following completion, and a part-time job while either finishing high school or post-secondary."

Financial support to militarize young children has always been a priority for federal governments of all stripes. Indeed, the largest federally funded national youth training program for 12-18 year-olds has traditionally been military cadets, funding for which has topped over $1 billion in the past decade. While there are 350,000 Scouts and Guides compared with 56,000 cadets, the former receive nearly no public subsidy. The cost of summer training for five cadets could equal Canada's entire annual subsidy to Guides.

And the push is on to enlarge this priority of militarizing children.

"I believe that military service is the highest calling of citizenship," Prime Minister Harper told a group of young soldiers April 13 at a military graduation in Wainwright, Alberta. (But Harper doesn't plan on reaching that high calling for himself; rather, he stays home while he sends young people overseas to kill and be killed on his behalf).

That same day, CTV reported on a triumphant War Minister Gordon O'Connor who declared a "recent advertising blitz by the military seems to have worked....Ads shown on movie theatre and television screens helped bring in 5,800 applications to Canada' Armed Forces in the last fiscal year -- 300 more than the goal of 5,500."

"This morning I got a report from National Defence [sic] headquarters that for this year's target, we're at 110 per cent," said O'Connor, who now wants to find and train 23,000 new recruits.

Some of those recruits will likely be coming out of the same place that increasingly is called upon to provide a curriculum of tolerance, respect, and nonviolent conflict resolution. If you do not want your local high school pairing up with an institution whose top general publicly declares he's all pumped up to go after an "enemy" he describes as "detestable scumbags," let your guidance departments know, call your school boards, and put an end to this dangerous trend.

Of course, there will be those who say that doing this dishonours veterans, to which you can simply reply, "Balderdash." Canada's War Dept. is eager to send young women and men overseas, but does little or nothing to help them when they return physically or emotionally damaged from warfare. They have yet to recognize and compensate those suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, from Agent Orange testing in New Brunswick; veterans from as far back as World War II continue fighting the government for long overdue benefits. The best way to honour veterans who know the horror of war is to say: make war no more. It's time to close up the War Department with one exception: we need to keep a department for providing proper compensation to the veterans and families who have made huge sacrifices while the Harpers of this world have stayed home, basking in someone else's sacrifices.

(report from Matthew Behrens of Homes not Bombs)


Taking some steps:

1. Get in touch with Homes not Bombs (416) 651-5800 or tasc@web.ca and Women in Black, Windsor via Marilyn Eves at (519) 971-7979 or mardiaeves@yahoo.ca

2. Contact your local high school guidance office and inquire about whether they have such an arrangement and, if so, make your protest heard. Also see if schools will develop policies around refusing placements which contradict the creation of a culture of peace and nonviolence in the learning environment.

3. Don't pay taxes for war: check out the Peace Tax forms available from Conscience Canada at WWW.CONSCIENCECANADA.CA

4. Monthly Homes not Bombs vigil, Tuesday, May 2, 12 noon-1 pm, at MaRS, a new research institute partnering with one of the Pentagon's largest chemical warfare developers, the Battelle Memorial Institute. Located at 101 College Street (just west of University)

5. Join rallies and acts of nonviolent resistance to war at Burlington, Ontario's L-3 Wescam (subsidiary of the self-proclaimed largest military contractor in Canada), May 14-15. Wescam technology is used against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan and, given their role as a supplier to the forces of domestic repression, Wescam equipment is likely being used by the OPP and RCMP to target people at the Six Nations occupation in Caledonia.