A controversial video that compares soldiers to cannon fodder was intended to force a ban on the presence of the military in schools, says Alex Conradi of the Fédération des femmes du Québec (FFQ.) The video was released in September 2010 and later brought to the attention of the public by the mother of a soldier fallen in Afghanistan, who found its message offensive. It was produced as part of a series of five commercials dealing with women’s issues, in preparation for the World March of Women 2010.
The French language video features an actress playing the mother of a daughter who has been recruited into the military at school. “People say ‘make love not war’ but what they should say is ‘make love for war’ – because it takes a lot of children to supply an army,” translates the opening line of the video. The actress packs an assault rifle and flowery bra into an army duffel bag while she tells the story of her children, who according to the script were all touched by the war in Afghanistan.
The actress tells of two sons – one killed in Afghanistan, and one returned home but no longer “right in the head.” The anti-military video originally concluded with the words, “Having known that by giving birth I was supplying cannon fodder, I would perhaps have chosen not to bear children.” Conradi apologized for the comment, and the FFQ has removed it from an edited version of the video. But Conradi says the group will not back down from its demands that Canada bring home its troops from Afghanistan immediately, and that the Quebec government legislate a ban on all military and cadet activities in the province’s schools.
The global web site of the World March of Women speaks out against the military establishment, saying, “War, conflict and militarisation are expressions of violence made natural within the patriarchal and capitalist systems, and the means used by these systems to maintain their dominance.” They take a position that the military trains young men to take on a dominant (and violent) role in society, and teaches that women must be protected by men. “The army can be considered one of the most strongly patriarchal organisations of any society . . . This model of masculinity associated with strength and aggressiveness is a growing reference for young people, and often unites with racism in the formation and joining of gangs.”
In 2008 the FFQ was awarded a federal grant of $770,000, for “a major three-year project . . . to help improve the economic security of women, based on their life course.” Radio commentator Normand Lester said the group was out of touch, especially since Canada is in the process of pulling out of Afghanistan. He also called the anti-military video a fraud, noting that the Canadian Forces does not recruit in schools and that Canadian soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and elsewhere are volunteers, not conscripts. In Lester’s opinion the FFQ has outlived its usefulness, and is simply reluctant to let go of the tax dollars it regularly receives.
The FFQ wants to see military funds go instead to social programs. The group also claims military recruiting in Canada is at its highest point since World War II. In 2006 there were 87,700 Canadians serving in the regulary forces and reserves, down from 120,000 in 1991. With a national population that year of 32,576,100 that figure represents just under 3 percent of Canadians serving in the military. By comparison the United States had 1,421,668 active military personnel alone in 2009, representing 4.6 percent of its population. Unlike some other nations, Canada has no conscription or registration for future drafts. Personnel serving in Canadian reserve forces who are deployed abroad are all volunteers who specifically requested their assignments. Women in the Canadian Forces are eligible for all the same types of duty as men.
“Active duty military personnel strengths by regional area and by country.” Department of Defense Personnel & Procurement Statistics
“Canada – Le recrutement militaire à son apogée depuis la Seconde Guerre mondiale.”
Peggy Curran, “‘Cannon fodder’ video angers Quebec military families.” Montreal Gazette
“Disclosure of grant and contribution awards.” Status of Women Canada
Jungwee Park, “A profile of the Canadian Forces.” Statistics Canada
“Peace and demilitarisation.” World March of Women 2010
“Population by year, by province and territory .” Statistics Canada
“Population finder.” US Census Bureau
“Vidéo controversée de la Fédération des femmes du Québec.” CHMP-FM
“Women’s group apologizes for calling soldiers ‘cannon fodder’.” CTV Montreal News