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Canadian Forces has new Aboriginal entry program.

Aboriginal Canadians who are thinking about joining the Canadian Forces have a new program that allows them to `test drive' a military career before signing up for service.

The Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program (CFAEP) is a new initiative of the Department of National Defense (DND), designed to let interested Aboriginal candidates experience first-hand what a military career is like, allowing them to make an informed decision as to whether to pursue a career in the Canadian Forces.

The new program is offered through two new Pre-Recruit Training Programs (PRTP), one to be offered in Yellowknife, N.W.T., and the other in Famham, Que.

The new program takes up where the old Northern Native Entry Program (NNEP) left off, but with an expanded participation base, and changes designed to better accommodate its Native participants.

Whereas the old program, initiated in 1971 and discontinued in 1999, was limited to involvement of Aboriginal people living in the North, the new program is opened up to Native people from throughout Canada, although the specific needs of people from the North continue to be addressed.

Lieutenant Vance White is public affairs officer with Canadian Forces recruiting. According to White, the new training programs will provide participants with "the opportunity of getting a better understanding of what the military is all about before they go ahead and make a significant career decision."

The new Aboriginal entry program was created following a review of the old NNEP to determine how to increase both the participation of Aboriginal candidates and retention of candidates as recruits. According to information provided by DND, about 30 people graduated from the old program each year between 1990 and 1998, with only between three and six going on to basic training each year

Through consultation with the governments of Nunavut, the N.W.T. and the Yukon, as well as with Native Elders, Aboriginal organizations and community representatives, the new program was developed in hopes of increasing Aboriginal participation in the Canadian Forces.

"In the new program we have ensured that all the instructors will have cultural awareness training so they understand the background that the applicants are coming from, and they can communicate more effectively with them," White said, providing just a few examples of how the new program has been adapted to address cultural differences among participants.

"One of the examples that was brought up was that eye contact by instructors was inappropriate for Inuit students, which resulted in miscommunication and conflict. In that culture they don't use eye contact as much, and we use it a lot more, so they found it very aggressive," White explained.

The Yellowknife-based pre-recruit program is being offered to Aboriginal candidates living north of 60 degrees in most of Canada, north of 55 degrees in Quebec, and along the Labrador coast. During the three-week long course, participants will receive northern skills training, cross-cultural and military awareness sessions. Included will be first aid training, life skills training, some weapons training (using dummy weapons, as civilians are not permitted to handle military weaponry), fire prevention, navigating, drill, search and rescue, physical fitness, hygiene, and information on how to maintain equipment and uniforms. The Yellowknife program will also include sessions designed to help participants become acclimatized to the culture in the South, helping prepare them for the new foods, languages, climate, and cultural differences. Stress management will also be addressed, and Canadian Forces policies regarding such things as drug and alcohol and physical abuse will also be dealt with.

Candidates successfully completing the Yellowknife course can then go on to complete the Farnham-based training course, joined by Aboriginal candidates from the South. During PRTC Farnham, White explained, the cultural awareness training will continue, and the level of military awareness training will increase. The Farnham course, which again lasts three weeks, helps prepare participants for Regular Force Basic Training. According to information provided by DND, during PRTC Famham, "candidates will experience military life first-hand as they study military organization, rank structure, weapons skills, drill and participate in a physical fitness routine."

The Yellowknife course begins in August, while the Famham course begins in September
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Author:Petten, Cheryl
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Apr 1, 2000
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