We've been working for two years with the Canadian Army, in particular, and with NATO. We've been in Africa getting research because my institute, the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, based at Dalhousie University, is field focused. We train armies and police forces in countries to send them—military and police forces—into conflict zones.
We were able to influence the content of the Canadian Army by being the first army in the world to formally put into its new doctrine.... Doctrine is a reference from which you deduce tactics, organization, equipment, and the training you need to do the job, the mission. By creating that doctrine, it is now leading the world in formally recognizing it. We are going start implementing the training of trainers to then bring that forward.
This doctrine is particularly important because there isn't one conflict in the world that is not using children as the primary weapon system. The children may be nine years old, 10, 12, 13, 14, or 15. Every one of those conflicts creates not only an ethical but a moral dilemma for the members. That's what blows us further....
We always thought it was the ambush or the accident that was the hardest point. The hardest one is the moral dilemma and the moral destruction of having to face children.
A sergeant came to me in Quebec City, where I live. He looked good and spoke of five missions, and things were going well. I asked him what his job in the battalion was, and he broke down right there in the middle of the shopping centre. He couldn't talk. He stammered, and he was weak-kneed and crying. I took him aside and so on, and he said, “I was in the recce platoon, and my job was to make sure the suicide bombers didn't get to the convoys”. He said, “You know, I've been back for four years, and I still haven't hugged my children”.
We are taking significant casualties because we don't know how to handle child soldiers. This doctrine will move us a long way that way, and we'll be part of the training program.