If it's hard to find a good man these days, the Canadian military is finding it's even harder to find a good woman, and it is ready to spend about $3 million (U.S.) to lure 500 women into a combat career.
Next month, the Canadian army will kick off an 18-month, $1 million advertising campaign aimed at women willing to become a member of Canada's combat troops.
The move to increase the number of women in the army combat section follows a 1986 decision by the Canadian human rights tribunal that the military be completely integrated by 1999. Currently, there are just 66 women among the nation's 10,400 combat troops.
The move to bring women into combat positions -- something not done in the militaries of the United States, Britain or Israel -- has already sparked controversy.
"The problem with women isn't that they're not strong enough. It isn't that they're not brave. It isn't that they won't die well like the rest of us," retired Maj. Gen. Dan Loomis said at an Ottawa news conference. "The problem is the group dynamics" of the platoon.
Research after World War II, he said, showed soldiers are motivated to fight by the tightly knit group of "buddies" in a platoon.
Loomis, a Korean War veteran and winner of the Military Cross, said that during his time as a platoon leader, he discovered a 16-year-old youth who lied about his age to get in the army. Everyone in the group, he explained, went out of their way to protect the youth, and he fears the same protective instinct will be applied to women and reduce the group's overall effectiveness.
The Canadian Forces has already opened up all of its trades to women, except those involving service in submarines, said Maj. Howard Michitsch, a senior human resources officer.
Women recruits must meet the same physical and training standards as men, explained Navy Commander Deborah Wilson.
"We're only interested in hiring capable individuals," she said, adding the military has "no intention of changing the physical standards" of graduates.
However, women won't have to meet the same standards as men to get into the training program, Michitsch explained.
The reality, he said, is the military must broaden its recruitment base if the forces are to maintain their man- and woman-power.
A critic of the integration, Art Hanger, a federal Member of Parliament with the opposition Reform Party, slammed the enlistment program saying he's "not convinced" women have the physical strength and stamina necessary for combat.