As a youth organization, cadets of every stripe have a lot of good things going for them.
Youth are exposed to character-building activities and have the chance to be leaders among their peers at an early age — potentially setting the stage for accomplishments later in life, in whatever field they chose as young adults.
Like many youth groups, cadets also is a place where attitudes are learned or unlearned — as described in our story in this edition about the successes of a local 18-year-old girl in the 676 Squadron Air Cadets in Sidney. Rising up the ranks is an accomplishment to be proud of and Emma Van Wyk has made it to the Squadron’s second in command (among her peers).
Reading about her experiences and those of young women who came before her, it appears to be a positive experience, where young men and women share the duties, roles and leadership opportunities. It’s a wonderful example of any cadet — male or female — when given the chance to shine, they do, setting an example for those around them and future leaders.
It’s a lesson we wish would survive long after the cadets experience is over and young people consider careers in the Canadian Forces as adults.
While cadets is no guarantee that someone will choose to serve their country once they exit the youth organization, some do take that path. And hopefully more and more of them that do so, will bring with them the kind of leadership example of people like Van Wyk.
The Canadian Forces has had very public battles with issues of sexual assault and discrimination. While the top brass has said in the past they wish to weed it out, there is still a long way to go. And like many aspects of society, it may take a generational shift to get there.
Better yet, it will take a change in leadership to better reflect our nation’s desire for equal opportunities in all of the public service — including the military.
That sort of change in thinking and increase in acceptance starts at the lowest possible level — with youth. Hopefully, over time, it will work its way up through the ranks and become the norm, not just the hope.