Nearly every article in the latest issue of the Canadian Military Journal was devoted to critical race theory and disparaging “whiteness” in the military. 

With titles like “‘I’m Not Your Typical White Soldier’: Interrogating Whiteness and Power in the Canadian Armed Forces” and “Supporting Military Families: Challenging or Reinforcing Patriarchy?” Canadians might think they were reading radical academic papers and not the Canadian Armed Forces’ official publication. 

The articles in the summer 2023 edition assert that the Canadian Armed Forces are inherently founded on the principles of white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy. 

Academics from unrelated fields such as gender identity and women’s studies advocate for the wholesale adoption of critical race theory to address perceived issues within the military.

The recurring theme throughout the articles is the assertion that the military perpetuates various -isms and -archies, from patriarchy to ableism, all rooted in white supremacy. 

A search of the word “white” found that it appears 190 times, painting a picture of a military institution deeply embedded in a colonial legacy that allegedly marginalizes racial minorities.

“The (Canadian Armed Forces) is both a product and an instrument of the white settler colonial state,” write authors Mount Saint Vincent University gender researcher Maya Eichler and assistant professor Vanessa Brown. 

“As a white settler colonial institution, the military has historically reproduced white privilege and the marginalization of racialized ‘others.’”

These concepts seem to be top of mind for the military’s leadership, despite the fact that the Canadian Armed Forces faces an unprecedented crisis in recruiting and retaining personnel.

Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee, the Royal Canadian Navy’s commander, recently said in a year-end warning that the force was unable to meet its operational commitments in 2024 with current rates of recruitment. The navy alone is facing shortages numbered at 20% or higher. 

The number of new recruits has dwindled even lower with the Canadian Armed Forces only seeing 5,242 new members in 2022, down 35% in 2021. 

Meanwhile, the Department of National Defence and senior military leadership have looked on approvingly as the Canadian Armed Forces have been ordered to fight white supremacy, heteronormativity, and become an “anti-racist” organization via numerous military directives

The proposed solution to these perceived problems is replacing military training with a re-education program based on the ideology dear to the academic authors. They propose an even more extensive integration of critical race theory into military education and training than the current affirmative action practices.

“The dominant approach focused on increasing racial diversity is not sufficient to address the systemic embeddedness of white supremacy within military culture,” write Eichler and Brown. 

“(The military must) integrate critical theories and an anti-oppression framework into professional military education and training, and into all institutional systems, structures, processes, and procedures.” 

Tammy George, an assistant professor at York University, takes it a step further by urging the military to root out “everyday instances of whiteness.” She argues that naming and displacing so-called whiteness from its status are necessary steps to challenge the foundational elements of the Canadian nation, in which the military plays an integral part.

“While the threat of white supremacy should not be dismissed, focussing on extreme cases obscures everyday forms of whiteness,” writes George. “Very rarely do scholars address the nuanced everyday ways in which white supremacy works to consolidate whiteness in Western militaries.”

The call for ongoing re-education to eliminate vestiges of colonialism and “whiteness” is echoed by George, who believes that meaningful, sustained culture change requires addressing systemic issues constitutive of the military as an institution. Another way of saying re-education based on critical race theory practices. 

“Meaningful, sustained culture change requires engaging with not only racism, whiteness, and power that manifest in overt individual acts, but with those that are systemic and constitutive of the (Canadian Armed Forces) as an institution. It is imperative to move beyond superficial and performative responses to deeply changing structures and systems,” argues George. 

In another article, Leigh Spanner, a research fellow at the Centre for Social Innovation and Community Engagement in Military Affairs, focuses on military families, claiming they are upheld on principles of “patriarchy” that require reform.