Commander of the Canadian Army, Lieutenant-General Marquis Hainse’s desire to join the military took its roots during his Air Cadets years in his hometown of Thetford Mines, Quebec. Following in his older bother’s footsteps, he joined the Cadets, and the military way of life became appealing to him in his teenage years. Hainse joined the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Quebec, where he had developed his knowledge of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly the Army. “Thirty-eight years later, I am still serving and still enjoying every minute of it,” he says.
Annual spending on the military, compared to 2011, has been slated to shrink by a total of $2.7-billion this year, according to a briefing note from the Department of National Defence. That is almost $300 million more than internal estimates and roughly $600 million higher than the figure defence officials acknowledged last fall when they rolled out the department’s renewal plan. “There is no doubt that the fiscal situation has changed over the past few years, and that the Army’s budget is less than it has been,” Hainse acknowledged. “So, we will adjust our priorities to reflect the resources available to us; but at the same time, certain tasks are non-negotiable. I will preserve Army core capabilities by ensuring combined arms live fire training. We will find efficiencies through the Defence Renewal Process, shed some costs through older infrastructure and equipment divestments, and make sure our force is well balanced, meaning that we will ensure we have the right people doing the right jobs in the right locations. At the end of the day, I remain confident that the Army will be postured to complete its missions with the resources available.”
One of the Lieutenant-General’s early domestic deployments was as a Company Commander the Oka Crisis of 1990. “I will say up front that during that period, both the Canadian Armed Forces and Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples faced a very tense and uncomfortable moment, but more importantly, we both learned from that historic event,” said Lt. Gen. Hainse. “With regard to the lasting effects of that event, I believe that the intervening period has enabled a better understanding of the values guiding both communities; it has also triggered a significant increase in the development of Aboriginal programs within Defence. The development of this mutual comprehension continues today, and with my role as Aboriginal Champion for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, I hope to maintain this trend.”
Hainse is very proud that the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has a wide variety of programs related to Aboriginal peoples. “Taken together, they serve to recognize and celebrate their many contributions throughout Canada’s history. They allow Aboriginal people to take advantage of the education and training opportunities that the Armed Forces have to offer, like subsidized college and university programs,” said Hainse. He notes that these programs also serve to inform and educate the defence institution so that when the CAF enrols Aboriginal peoples, they join an organization knowledgeable about them and responsive to their unique contributions and cultures. “We work hard with communities and leaders to make this successful. The long and proud history of Aboriginal people in Canada’s military is an important element in these programs.”
The Lt. Gen. described the programs: “We have Summer Training Programs such as Bold Eagle, Raven, and Black Bear; we have the Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Also, our Canadian Rangers Program—not exclusive to Aboriginal youth but very much targeted that way—is another important program. As well, the Aboriginal Entry Program is a three week program for Aboriginal people considering a career in the military. Lastly, the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group exists to advise senior leaders on a whole range of issues within the department.”
The Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in March, 2015. The DAAG offers valuable guidance to the senior leadership of the CAF to promote and create fair, equitable, and inclusive working environments for all Aboriginal members of the Defence Team, both military and civilian. The members of the DAAG support the chain of command in its mandate to foster awareness of Aboriginal issues, recruiting and retention issues, and also provide a forum within the organization for Aboriginal peoples to gather and support one another as they exercise their unique cultural, spiritual, and traditional identities. Since its creation twenty years ago, the DAAG has influenced many positive initiatives, including a change in dress regulations that allows Aboriginal members to wear their hair in a traditional manner. The DAAG laid the groundwork for all the Aboriginal programs.
Lt. Gen. Hainse describes his role as the Aboriginal Champion for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces as “first and foremost one of advocacy. I am an advocate for all things Aboriginal in the Army, as well as in the other services and within the defence institution as a whole. Practically speaking, I promote Aboriginal programs in my speeches and presentations. I encourage Aboriginal considerations in Defence business planning and decision making. I help foster an equitable and welcoming workplace through awareness of Aboriginal issues. Overall, I think that the mere fact that we have a Champion in the department demonstrates our commitment to furthering the role and presence of Aboriginal people in the military.”
When asked why he, the Army Commander, is the Aboriginal Champion versus his Commander colleagues at the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy, Hainse said, “perhaps because I asked for it! Both my predecessors acted as Champion, and when I was appointed Army Commander, I requested to carry on in that role. Practically speaking, it is a good fit. The Army is the largest of the three services, and so naturally we employ more people in a broader range of trades. We also have the Canadian Rangers, which is not an Aboriginal organization per se, but over 60% of Canadian Rangers are Aboriginal. But in reality, any one of our senior leaders would be well positioned to play this role; I am just happy that for now, the honour is mine.”
Hainse says, “The face of Aboriginal people in the Forces is a mirror image of the face of Canada. Now more than ever, Canada is a cultural, ethnic, religious and racial mosaic. It is an extraordinarily diverse and accepting country. As a result, our military must strive every day to be a diverse and accepting military. I am proud to see Aboriginal soldiers wearing traditional braids, working alongside turbaned Sikh comrades and female infantry soldiers, and so on. So, to complete my answer to your question, the face of Aboriginal people in the Armed Forces is that of a skilled, dedicated, professional soldier, sailor, airman or airwoman, bringing diversity to the profession of arms.”
Many of the young Aboriginals who join the armed forces are moving from small and isolated communities to larger urban centres. When asked how the CAF facilitates their transition, Hainse said, “I’m not sure that transition is the best term because it implies an end state. Rather, we see it as a continuous process where Aboriginal applicants are adapting to and ultimately adopting life in the military and the ‘big city’. But clearly, we do understand the challenges and that is one of the reasons why all the programs I mentioned earlier seek to lessen the culture shock. These programs provide mentoring, promote Aboriginal teachings, traditions and spirituality, but even more important, they are developed in close coordination with elders. In addition, the military is also an extended family; we work and play together. It is within this military family that participants receive the support they need to become a soldier in the big city, while at the same time honouring and preserving their Aboriginal heritage.”
“I am certainly very proud to have been entrusted with this responsibility and grateful at the same time, as I have learned so much about Aboriginal heritage, culture and history in this job,” Hainse explains. “Creating and nurturing diversity in an historic institution like National Defence is not an easy task; it is a long term project and to be honest I’m not sure it ever really ends, but, rather continues to mature and improve. We have made enormous progress in my time in the military, and I believe that progress will continue. We have the institutional will and the moral obligation to make it so, and that will guide us in the future.”
“Speaking for the Army in particular, I can say without hesitation that the contributions that Aboriginal soldiers bring to the table will continue to improve the Canadian Army and will ensure we remain Strong, Proud and Ready to serve Canada and Canadians.”