Military base steps up inclusive recruiting practices
Local base to work more closely with religious and cultural community groups
Dozens gathered in silence on Sunday at the Wolseley Barracks to commemorate Canadian soldiers who served in the First World War at the Battle of Hill 70.
Among the heroes fought Pte. Hasan Amat, who is believed to be Canada's only Muslim casualty – also among 22 other Muslim soldiers to serve for Canada during the war.
Lt.-Col. Martin Anderson, the commanding officer of the 4th Battalion of the local Royal Canadian Regiment unit, has prepared for the unique ceremony for more than a year.
"We felt that it was important that we take a chance to recognize all the contributions to Canada's defence," he said. "I think we, as an organization, underrepresent the communities we're from. We need to broaden our diversity amongst ourselves so we represent the cities that we train and work in. "
Representatives of the local Muslim community, including the London Muslim Mosque, were asked to participate in the commemorative ceremony on Sunday.
Anderson said the local military base will increase its focus on inclusive recruiting this year by working more intimately with religious and cultural community groups.
He said the organization has also changed its application process to decrease wait times and increase interest in participation.
"We have decreased the length of time it takes to get sworn in as a solider. It used to take months and months and months for someone who expressed interest to get through the door. Now, it takes a matter of weeks," he said.
"There's more progress to be made but we're beginning to see an increase in diversity inside our own organization."
Muslim community remembers Amat
OPP Const. Emad Haider, who's also part of the Muslim community in London, addressed the importance of focusing on positive contributions made by Muslim Canadian leaders, who, he said, are often underrepresented.
"It's just really refreshing to have something like this happen in our local community," he said. "We don't really see it often, especially in the media. We always hear what happened in terms of the negative stereotypes associated with Muslims."
Capt. Ryan Carter, the Imam at the Royal Military College of Canada, reminded people that Muslim Canadians have been a part of the nation's history since its confederation.
"We are part of this historical narrative including the narrative of WW I and subsequent wars and conflict of Canadian history," he said. "The war effort and subsequent conflict in past and present have included Canadian of all demographics, cultures, and religion."
And Capt. Tyson Akkila agrees.
He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1994 – only four years after immigrating to Canada as refugee – and has proudly served his country as a Muslim Canadian.
"We are a part of this society and we are a part of this country. That's the trust the Canadian government gave us as Canadian citizen," he said. "I'm giving my life to this country to serve this country."