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Army Capt. Mandy Grewal (centre) joined the Canadian Forces in her 30s after a career as a private-sector lawyer. The Canadian Armed Forces are struggling to hit their own targets to get more women, Indigenous people and visible minorities into uniform, new data obtained by Global News shows.

And, in an attempt to to boost numbers that appear to have been largely stalled for more than three years, the Department of National Defence (DND) will launch a suite of new digital tools — including a smartphone app that, in its functionality, will resemble the matchmaking app Tinder — aimed at convincing more Canadians to consider a life in the Armed Forces.

The Canadian Forces believes a more diverse group is also a more effective group.

“It’s important in that it gives us operational effectiveness,” Brig.-Gen. Virginia Tattersall said in an interview. “If we were all that one sort of vanilla, you won’t get that same range of opinions, those different ways of being able to think about issues, that different approach to how to solve a problem.”

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The Canadian Forces says that, as of the most recent fiscal year-end, on March 31, 2018, just 15 per cent of the regular force were women, a ratio that’s hardly budged since 2016 when it was 14.4 per cent. DND’s own target is to push that ratio to 25 per cent by 2026.

One new female recruit, army Capt. Mandy Grewal, joined the Canadian Forces in the spring at the age of 34. She had been a practising private-sector lawyer and had never considered a career in uniform when she was growing up.

“It was never a career that was presented to me growing up as an Indian female,” Grewal said in an interview.

But through some friends who were in the Forces, Grewal learned about life in uniform and found out she could continue practising law and have the chance to work overseas and in different parts of Canada. She believes more women and visible minorities might consider making the same choice she did if they knew more the sorts of trades the military is seeking.

“I think that greater awareness of the career opportunities, of the fact that there are pretty much every trade that you would have in the civilian world, you can practise and you can also learn to do it in the military context,” said Grewal. Capt. Mandy Grewal completed her basic training earlier this year and is now an army lawyer practising with the Judge Advocate General. Tattersall acknowledged that one barrier to recruiting more women has been the perception that the Armed Forces did not do enough to prevent inappropriate sexual behaviour, that women were putting themselves at risk in a culture that often overlooked that kind of behaviour.

“But the Canadian Armed Forces is working hard to change that culture,” Tattersall said. “We’ve taken [steps] to make that very clear that’s not what the Canadian Armed Forces represents, apologize to those who have suffered and to move forward with a culture we want, which is an inclusive culture.”

Tattersall said the department has spent considerable time thinking about how to convince Canadians to join the forces.

Among the new initiatives set for this fall, the Forces hope to launch a program that lets Canadians sign up on a temporary basis, to get a taste of life in uniform, in the hope that they will enjoy the experience and make a career commitment.

There will soon be a revamped website which will include some virtual reality tours. And there will be a smartphone app […]

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