Canadian Army to Prepare New Ethos and Dress Code as Recruitment Continues to Fall

Photo Credit: Abelimages / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Abelimages / Getty Images

Despite having a world-class military, recruitment for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has dwindled over the past few years. As such, its leadership hopes a new ethos and revamped dress code will help solve its low recruitment and address a necessary cultural shift.

Canadian flag on the uniform of a Canadian Armed Forces member
A Canadian flag on the sleeve of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. (Photo Credit: Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Canada’s Department of National Defence recently addressed the military’s culture and the lack of diversity within its ranks, acknowledging the impact on enlistment numbers.

This past week, Major General Lise Bourgon, acting chief of military personnel, told a panel, “The reality is that the Canadian workforce has changed, but we, the CAF, have not. 71 [percent] of the CAF workforce are still White males, although they only represent 39 [percent] of the Canadian civilian workforce.

“So as an organization, we must attract, recruit, retain and develop talent that is representative of our Canadian society.”

Canadian Armed Forces members walking in Latvia
Jean-Francois Cauden, Commander Task Force Latvia at NATO, salutes during a visit from Canada’s Minister of Defence in Adazi, Latvia on February 3, 2022. (Photo Credit: GINTS IVUSKANS/ AFP / Getty Images)

The previous military ethos was “duty with honour.” The new one will change that phrasing to “trusted to serve.” Bourgon emphasized this new ethos will stress one’s character as vitally important. Inclusion will also be incorporated as a military value, and teamwork will be set as a professional expectation.

This change also comes in the wake of a sexual misconduct crisis involving senior leaders.

Canadian soldier standing on a military vehicle
A Canadian Armed Forces member is pictured on a military vehicle during a visit from Canada’s Minister of Defence in Adazi, Latvia on February 3, 2022. (Photo Credit: GINTS IVUSKANS/ AFP / Getty Images)

The CAF also plans to release a new gender-neutral dress code for military personnel.

“We’ve heard from our members that the existing dress instructions were not inclusive, and did not allow our members to represent their authentic selves while in uniform” explained Bourgon. “Professional skills and competence are not defined by the length or colour of your hair. So this will be the first visual display of our culture and, honestly, a very clear signal that the CAF is evolving into a more inclusive organization.”

The plan is to ensure the CAF gives its soldiers options regarding their appearance, so long as they follow safety and operational effectiveness guidelines.

CAF members being honored at an NHL game
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces salute cheering fans during an NHL pre-game ceremony to honor the Canadian Military. (Photo Credit: Dave Sandford / Getty Images)

Following recent reports and issues from within the CAF, the service will have to deep-dive into the current culture within its ranks if it wants to see a change in recruitment numbers. Sexual misconduct and the COVID-19 pandemic have been cited as reasons for low recruitment rates, especially for women, visible minorities and Indigenous people.

The CAF has a goal of reaching 25.1 percent, in regard to female recruits. In 2021, that figure stood only at 15 percent.

Madeline Hiltz

Maddy Hiltz is someone who loves all things history. She received her Bachelors of Arts in history and her Master’s of Arts degree in history both from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Her thesis examined menstrual education in Victorian England. She is passionate about Princess Diana, the Titanic, the Romanovs, and Egypt amongst other things.

In her spare time, Maddy loves playing volleyball, running, walking, and biking, although when she wants to be lazy she loves to read a good thriller. She loves spending quality time with her friends, family, and puppy Luna!