The plan was an ambitious one.
Last fall, the Canadian Military launched an aggressive recruitment campaign in an attempt to bolster its numbers by more than 20,000 people over the next ten years.
Now there are questions about just who they’re trying to put in uniform and how they’re finding them. This after CTV obtained formerly classified documents detailing the recruitment strategy.
Andria Hill-Lehr says she’ll never forget the day her son told her he was going to Afghanistan. “It was November 2005 at a Christmas party when he came home and told me he’d been chosen to go. He did that, I think because he anticipated there would be some emotion, so I tried to keep it together. In the end I excused myself, I went upstairs and cried and cried and cried.”
Hill-Lehr says her son joined the Reserves after being won over by what she calls “military propaganda.” That’s why she’s so angry at how the Canadian forces are now reaching out to Canadian youth. “I think it’s irresponsible. I think it is preying on young people to make killing look like fun.”
Under the Access to Information Act, CTV News obtained formerly classified documents detailing the Military’s latest recruitment campaign, which launched last summer.
Documents reveal the military wanted to “inform, entertain and seduce “action focused males” between 17 and 22 years old.
It decided the most fertile ground for that was online, around video games.
“Keywords will be purchased on Canada’s major search engine networks (Google, Yahoo, MSN), the documents say, “based on gaming searches & other target-age interests (ie. Halo, MechAssault, Medal of Honour, etc.)
That, says the NDP Defence Critic, is irresponsible and dangerous. Dawn Black says, “War is real, it’s not a video game. People are being killed, people are being maimed. People are being terribly injured both physically and psychologically, and in the war in Afghanistan and I think it’s wrong to glamourize it.”
The Canadian Forces said nobody was available to comment on this story, but they did release a statement saying: “The primary purpose of recruit advertising is to raise awareness with the 17 to 34 year old target audience of a career in the Canadian Forces and to attract them to approaching the CF for further information. The Internet is only part of the strategy to meet the recruitment requirements of the Canadian Forces.”
Those requirements are hefty. The forces want to add 13,000 people and another 10,000 reservists over the next decade.
A professor who studies how video games influence the behaviour of young people, says the military may want to think twice about its approach. Michael Hoechsmann of McGill University says, “Playing a game is not going to cause you to go and kill people. It can however desensitize you to death, and it can also make war appear as a game and as something spectacular and exciting.”
Despite the controversy in Canada, using video games to recruit soldiers is common practice south of the border.
In fact, one of the most popular war-themed games on the market was developed by the U.S. Department of Defence. It’s called America’s Army.