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Put soldiers to work in life-affirming roles

The Daily Gleaner, Published Friday March 13th, 2009

Re: Military recruiting at St. Mary’s First Nation

When we opened a military recruiting office in St. Mary’s, I was disappointed.

I remembered 1939 recruitment drives ending the depression. One of the goals of the Second World War was freedom from fear and want. Our governments all know that economic despair creates ideal conditions for recruiting able-bodied young people for war.

Given the economic disadvantages imposed on First Nations people and the resulting high suicide rates on reserves, it’s not surprising that these would be prime areas for military recruiting.

Sadly, a career in the military – while providing a means of earning a living – does nothing to diminish the odds that young people in First Nations communities will commit suicide.

We also know that suicide rates among our military personnel are high. These are unnecessary tragedies.

We can solve the social problems by putting soldiers on positive projects like peacekeeping, and others correcting the gross inadequacies of basic infrastructure on First Nations reserves: building safe and energy-efficient housing; correcting the appalling cases of water contamination and implementing other needs identified by the communities themselves.

By giving our soldiers life-affirming rather than life-destroying work, we could reduce their suicide rates; and by providing our First Nations with decent living conditions and removing the impediments to economic autonomy, suicide rates in these communities would also decline.

As our world fights unemployment, pollution, climate change, colliding nuclear submarines and militarism (which costs humanity $1.3 trillion a year), I believe our military and all of us should be planting trees and fixing the social problems that drive people to suicide.

Military campaigns will never fix what ails the world.

What will? Working with nature rather than against it; rebuilding communities and becoming human once again.

Robert H. Young

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