The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Wounded Warriors Canada Veteran Trainers to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers (VTECS) program.
Since the program began in 2016, VTECS has offered 15 veterans every year an educational opportunity to learn more about child soldiers and at-risk youth.
The program began with a four month long online course provided through the Dalhousie University.
“What this course does is it looks at some of the parallels that exist between young people who are maybe being recruited in armed groups or non-state armed groups internationally and being used as child soldiers in a variety of different conflicts, and also the challenges we see domestically here in Canada for young people who may be recruited in to gangs or violent extremist organizations. So, it draws these parallels between international experiences that veterans may have had and what we see here on a domestic front,” said Joëlle Badman, Education Program Manager, The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative.
After completing this portion of the course, the veterans then come to Halifax, NS for the month of July for a residency at Dalhousie University. Here, they take another two university courses, one on children and war and the other on UN and world politics. They also complete a two week training course, from the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, on the prevention of use and recruitment of child soldiers. Costs are covered for the residency in Halifax.
The program began in 2016 to support those veterans who are transitioning to civilian life or post-deployment.
“So, the idea was to create a program, an educational program, that would provide veterans with all sorts of different kinds of skills that translate into a variety of different experiences,” noted Badman.
Although VTECS is a purely educational program, some of the program’s graduates have gone on to work for the Dallaire Initiative by providing training to various military and police forces around the world on the topic of child soldiers. This however, says Badman, is not a guarantee.
Other graduates have used their knowledge to take part in public and community engagements, advocacy, work for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and various other public awareness initiatives.
One graduate, an educator, used his knowledge to inform other educators at conferences on the topic of child soldiers and how it could come into their classroom “whether it’s through young people who have immigrated to Canada from areas of conflict who maybe have been child soldiers, but that info is not disclosed, and why it’s important for educators to know what that dynamic may be in their classroom,” commented Badman.
For the first time this year, VTECS is not only open to veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces but also veterans of any Canadian police forces, municipal, provincial or RCMP. The decision was inspired by a veteran who attended the program last year and was a veteran of both forces.
“It really illustrated to us how important it is to have that policing perspective in the program because law enforcement and the military so often work together, but also in quite distinct ways. So, having both those perspectives present, and also having the opportunity to learn from each other, is really great,” said Badman.
Aside from being a veteran of the CAF or Canadian police force, applicants must be able to complete the online course, be available in July for the residency and pass a successful criminal and venerable sector check.
After submitting an application, veterans can expect to hear back within 20 business days.
Click here to apply online for the VTECS program before Jan. 10