OPINION: National service could aid Canada battle hate, foreign influence

Apr 11, 2024 | OP-ED, Opinion

Canada is strained by a crisis of intolerance and foreign machinations and national service is the answer.

Even though it may be difficult to agree to, as it requires sacrificing your time and energy, national service will combat the rise of hate crime and foreign influence.

Hate crime has risen in Toronto alone by 93 per cent in 2023, the Toronto Police Service said in a March 18 news release.

Climate change is melting the arctic and destroying the North American landscape and is leaving the world with water shortages.

The World Wildlife Foundation states Canada currently holds 20 per cent of the world’s water.

With these and other northern resources becoming more easily available, other nations like Russia and Norway will be looking to take control.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being linked to the assassination of a Sikh separatist within Canada in a September 2023 speech.

A Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) 2021 report said Russia has attempted to influence Canadians through disinformation campaigns.

Member of Parliament Ken Hardie’s 2023 committee report said China’s secret police are present in Canada.

All these attacks erode Canada’s unity and the strength of Canada’s multicultural society.

National service has been successfully implemented in South Korea, Switzerland, and Singapore.

South Korea has a mandatory military national service for men that lasts for 18 to 24 months, women can voluntarily enlist as well.

Canada does not have mandatory national service currently because historically conscription has been heavily criticized by many Canadians.

Unfortunately, conscription led to some of the most decisive political debates in the history of Canadian politics.

French Canadians criticized the Borden government for forcing them to enlist during the First World War.

During the Vietnam War, French Canadians, progressives and activists sided with American draft dodgers and pacifists, said David S. Churchill in his article, American Expatriates and the Building of Alternative Social Space in Toronto, 1965-1977.

However, to combat the realities Canada currently faces, a national service policy could be the only option.

However, national service does not have to be military service, it could be a civic service like in Switzerland, where conscientious objectors can contribute.

Critics will argue that national service is only capable in homogenous nations like South Korea or Switzerland, but Singapore is a prime example of a nation with a diverse population that also has national service.

Singapore’s population is 75 per cent Chinese, 15 Malaysian, 7.5 Indian and 1.6 others, according to a 2020 report from the Singapore Department of Statistics, yet it is still able to create and foster unity through national service.

Singapore Defence Ministry’s mission statement said they were “committed to forging the unity and resilience of [their] nation.”

This is reflected in the attitudes of the different Singaporean groups. Statista stated most Singaporeans view racial and religious amiability to be moderately high.

Statistica also said acceptance and comfort with people of other ethnicities in their social circles was relatively high across different ethnic groups.

A Canadian national service should offer three branches, military, civic and exemplary.

The first, military service, would be two to four months of basic training and then two years of active duty or 10 years as a reserve with four to six refresher courses.

The second would be civic service, where an individual can complete simple tasks, such as landscaping, administrative work, charity work or other tasks like cleaning roads.

Third would be exemplary service, if an individual already works to further Canadian identity or a Canadian cause, they can pursue said work as part of their national service.

This would include athletes who compete nationally or internationally, researchers whose work could be recognized nationally or internationally and individuals already working in the military or the government.

As an incentive, the government could offer a stipend to cover the loss of payment from regular employment or to cover educational expenses or debts.

National service would be difficult to implement and Canadians will need to be convinced this is to their benefit, however, to combat hate crimes and foreign interference, it is necessary.

If Canada waits it will be too late. It needs to act now, while foreign influence has not yet completely sown chaos in its society.