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Comparative Military Demographics

Dr. Scoppio and a Māori colleague

Scoppio personal collection IMG-6195

Dr. Scoppio and a Māori colleague demonstrate the traditional Māori greeting, the hongi, or touching of noses.

Indigenous Peoples in the New Zealand Defence Force and the Canadian Forces

by Grazia Scoppio

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Introduction: Kia Ora!1

I am thankful to a number of individuals and organizations for their contributions to this research.2 This article builds upon a research report entitled "Leadership in a Diverse Environment: Diversity Strategies in Military and Police Forces in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States."3 A summary of the previous research is provided in the background section.

The research for this article was conducted during a visit to New Zealand (NZ), part of an exchange between the Canadian and New Zealand Departments of National Defence (CANZEX), in October 2007. The objective of the exchange was twofold. On the one hand, the Canadian delegation wanted to learn about strategies and initiatives used to enhance participation of Māori peoples and integrate Māori culture into the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF). On the other, the NZDF members wanted to learn about Canadian Forces (CF) recruiting and outreach programs addressing Aboriginal populations in Canada.

This article adopts a comparative and international approach to juxtapose the experiences of NZ and Canada’s military in order to identify similarities, differences, potential lessons, and best practices in the area of organizational diversity.

Background: Previous Research

The previously conducted research involved:

  • Developing a diversity framework for the CF; and
  • Benchmarking between Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom (UK), the United States (US) [ABCA countries], and select police forces.

The diversity framework developed was founded upon the three pillars of Canadian diversity, drawing from the model offered by the Canadian political scientists Jane Jenson and Martin Papillon:4

  • Linguistic duality (two official languages: English and French);
  • Multiculturalism (official policy, now an Act); and
  • Recognition of Canada’s Aboriginal history.

Based upon these pillars, the following core diversity values should be integrated as a component of the CF leadership framework:

  • Recognize Canada’s foundations of multiculturalism, bilingualism, and Aboriginal history;
  • Respect for human rights and equality;
  • Value the diversity of all individuals regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, linguistic background, or other types of diversity; and
  • Foster a climate of inclusion, non-discrimination, tolerance, and accommodation of difference.

In turn, core diversity values should be reflected in diversity competencies, to be integrated in the CF Professional Development (PD) framework. Nineteen competencies were identified, consisting of:

  • Cultural awareness/sensitivity, including customs and religions;
  • Awareness of gender differences, including communication styles;
  • Awareness of stereotyping, bias, and discrimination;
  • Knowledge of human rights and multiculturalism principles;
  • Understanding of harassment in the workplace;
  • Understanding of Employment Equity (EE) and issues related to women, Aboriginal people, visible minorities, and people with disabilities;
  • Understanding of Aboriginal history and Aboriginal treaty rights;
  • Cross-cultural/intercultural communication skills;
  • Language ability in Canada’s two official languages; and
  • Knowledge of a language other than English or French.

The research also involved benchmarking to identify best practices, such as:

  • The Australian Department of Defence Joint military and civilian portfolio for EE/diversity under the Director of Rights and Responsibilities;
  • The UK Ministry of Defence Senior Officer and Civil Servants Diversity and Equity Awareness program for General/Flag Officers and senior executives;
  • The US Department of Defense Employment Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI);
  • The New South Wales Police ‘Forward Plan: Priorities for Working in a Culturally, Linguistically, and Religiously Diverse Society’; and
  • The Canadian Forces best practice of opening all occupations to women, including combat occupations.

Based upon the research conducted, 14 recommendations were made to develop a way ahead for the CF by making a paradigm shift from a reactive to a proactive approach toward diversity.5The report was presented at the Defence Diversity Council in 2008. Several key recommendations were addressed in the 2008 Chief of Military Personnel EE Plan, including:

  • The review and revision of key training courses to ensure that the training material contains diversity content;
  • The development and delivery of formal EE and diversity training;
  • The addressing of specific issues around the propensity of Designated Group Members (DGMs) to join the CF; and,
  • The establishment and utilization of a CF mentoring and/or coaching program to assist DGMs in all aspects of their career possibilities.6

The report highlighted several areas requiring attention, including enhancing the participation of Aboriginal people in the CF. The successful participation of Māori members in the New Zealand Armed Forces was identified as an area requiring further investigation. The CANZEX provided the opportunity to conduct this research.

Group discussion during the CANZEX

Scoppio personal collection MC 07-0477-13

Group discussion during the CANZEX in the wharenui, or Maori meeting lodge.

Comparative and International Research: Two Case Studies

This article adopts a comparative and international research approach, using the case studies of New Zealand and Canada, looking at strategies used in the two countries to facilitate and enhance the participation of New Zealand Māori and Canadian Aboriginal peoples in their respective armed forces.

This qualitative study is meant to provide a baseline comparison of the NZDF and CF experiences with regard to indigenous people, to identify similarities and differences, as well as potential lessons and best practices, in the area of organizational diversity.

When conducting comparative and international research, it is important to acknowledge that in cross-national studies, national differences must be accounted for, including:

  • National context;
  • Policy framework;
  • Demographics; and
  • Social context.

The information was gathered through the following methods:

  • Presentations delivered by NZDF staff;
  • Discussions and informal conversations with NZDF staff and New Zealand subject matter experts(SMEs);
  • Email exchanges with NZDF staff;
  • Unclassified reports; and
  • Policy and legislative documents.

CANZEX participants pose in front of the wharenui

Scoppio personal collection MC 07-0477-19

CANZEX participants pose in front of the wharenui.

Conceptual Foundation

To understand the concept of organizational diversity, we need first to clarify the meaning of diversity, defined as:

  • The condition of being different; can encompass culture, ethnicity, gender, age, colour, religion, language, sexual preference, education, socio-economic background, as well as mental or physical disability.


Consequently, organizational diversity refers holistically to all the diversity of the work force, beyond legislative requirements dictated by equity legislation, which usually target groups who historically experienced discrimination in the work place.

A review of organizational culture and critical mass theories can help explain, at least partially, why some groups fare better than others in terms of their successful participation at all levels of the organization.  Organizational culture can be defined as:

  • The shared norms and values systems within an organization, or, to put it simply: ‘the way we do and see things around here.’  


In general, organizations with horizontal structures, flexible planning, and operating processes, have a more ‘open’ corporate culture. Thus, they are more open to change, such as embracing diversity and proactively implementing diversity strategies and programs.

Historically, organizations such as the military, with hierarchical structures, a chain of command, and linear planning and operating procedures, have a more ‘closed’ culture. As such, they are less open to change, and view diversity as a problem to be solved, or a legislative requirement to be addressed through reactive measures. However, in recent years, many military organizations are becoming more ‘open’ toward diversity; that is to say, they are becoming ‘diversity smart’ and are putting in place policies and processes that are ‘diversity friendly.’

Consequently, in order for organizations to embrace change, such as successfully integrating diverse groups and cultures, the corporate culture has to be ‘open.’ At the same time, in order to influence and transform the mainstream culture within an organization, a group needs to reach a ‘critical mass,’ This nuclear physics theory has been applied to the participation of women in politics by a number of renowned political scientists, including Canadian Professor Linda Trimble, University of Alberta, and Dr. Jane Arscott, Athabasca University,7as well as American Professor Pippa Norris, and British scholar Dr. Joni Lovenduski, University of London:

When applied to social sciences, the theory of critical mass suggests that the nature of group interactions depend upon size. When a group remains a distinct minority within a larger society, its members will seek to adapt to their surroundings, conforming to the predominant rules of the game…But once the group reaches a certain size, critical mass theory suggests that there will be a qualitative change in the nature of group interactions, as the minority starts to assert itself and thereby transform the institutional culture, norms, and values.8

Similarly, critical mass theory can be applied to other groups to help explain why some groups fare better than others in similar contexts. Two examples of groups who reached a critical mass and successfully participate at different levels of military organizations are the Māori in the NZDF, and African Americans in the US Armed Forces. Conversely, examples of groups who are not as well represented in military organizations include Hispanics and North American Indians in the US Armed Forces, and visible minorities and Aboriginal people in the CF.

The reason why some groups fare differently than others could partly be attributed to the fact that they need to achieve a critical mass within their organizations, including the top levels, in order to influence the corporate culture.

Leadership support is essential to accomplish change in organizations, such as achieving a diverse membership and influencing corporate culture. The people in power need to act and direct changes to strategic frameworks and organizational architectures and processes, as well as influence the climate, culture, and informal networks within the organization.

The Canadian Context

Canada is a multicultural and bilingual country. The population is made up of Anglophones, Francophones, Aboriginal people, and immigrants from very diverse backgrounds. This diversity is supported by a legislative framework which includes: the Multiculturalism Act, the Official Languages Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Employment Equity Act (EEA).

Based upon 2006 Census data, the Canadian population is 31,612,897. Although Canada’s land mass is one of the largest in the world, many areas are very remote and experience extreme winter temperature. Therefore, most of the population, approximately 80 percent, is concentrated in urban areas. Two-thirds of the population growth derives from international immigration, and the rate of the foreign-born population is 19.8 percent of the total population, while 58.3 percent of new immigrants come form Asia and the Middle East.9

LGen Andrew Leslie and members of the Raven 2009 Aboriginal Youth Program

DND (CFB Esquimalt) photo ET2009-0192-03 by Private Michael Bastien

Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, then-Chief of the Land Staff (CLS), inspects members of the Raven 2009 Aboriginal Youth Program, Victoria, British Columbia, 21 August 2009.

Canada also has an indigenous population, referred to as Aboriginal people. There are three main Aboriginal groups: North American Indians (or First Nations), Inuit, and Métis (mixed race). There is great diversity among the three groups, and also there is diversity within groups, including:

  • tribes within each group;
  • multiple Aboriginal languages (over 60);
  • different cultural and spiritual practices;
  • urban versus non-urban dwellers (i.e., reserves, remote areas); and
  • status versus non-status First Nations.

Aboriginal people constitute 1.1 million or 3.8 percent of the total population, and they are the fastest growing segment of the Canadian population, with the Métis being the main source of this growth.10 Most, but not all, North American Indians or First Nations are legally registered as ‘status Indians.’ Many First Nations live on reserves established by treaties, where they have achieved different forms of autonomy. At the same time, many others live in urban centres.

Historically, the relationship between Aboriginal people and the government has been problematic, particularly with regard to land claims, such as the Oka crisis in 1990, Ipperwash in 1995, and, most recently, at Caledonia in 2007, near the Six Nations Reserve in southwestern Ontario. Furthermore, Canadian Aboriginals have experienced different forms of colonialism, assimilation policies, abuse, and systemic racism, which have resulted in marginalization and loss of their language, culture, and sense of family. Some have accused the government of conducting “cultural genocide” against Aboriginal people.11

All this has had a negative social and economic impact upon many Aboriginal people and communities. Consequently, there have been, and still are, significant socio-economic disparities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups in general.

However, education is helping to narrow the gap, and Aboriginal people are participating in the labour market at much higher rates – comparable, in fact, to the non-Aboriginal population. As well, Aboriginal people in Canada are experiencing a demographic boom, with more than half of them being under the age of 25. The estimated availability of Aboriginal Peoples in the Canadian labour force is 2.6 percent, as observed in the 2001 census.12

The labour force participation of Aboriginal people is 65 percent, slightly lower than non-Aboriginal people (67 percent). Conversely, the unemployment rate of Aboriginal people is 16 percent – more than double that of non-Aboriginal people (7 percent).13

Programs and funding dedicated to Aboriginal people are in place, and there exists a federal government department responsible for issues related to Aboriginal people and communities, namely the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

However, due to the scope of the challenges facing some Aboriginal communities – such as social issues, poverty, health problems, and substance abuse – and given the remoteness of many reserves, it is not easy to implement strategies, programs, and practices that meet the diverse needs of the various Aboriginal populations.

The Honourable John Harvard, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, and Corporal Doug Tizya

DND photo LG2006-0741a by Corporal Bill Gomm

The Honourable John Harvard, Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba, talks with Corporal Doug Tizya at the 5th annual Bear Clan Gathering held in Winnipeg, 21 September 2006. Corporal Tizya, a member of 2PPCLI based at CFB Shilo, Manitoba, was wounded during his second tour in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Forces

Aboriginal members are under-represented in the CF, where, in 2007, they constituted about 1.8 percent of Regular Force of 63,000 members, and two percent of the total force drawn from all three services of about 100,000 members, (including the reserves). However, they are over-represented in the Canadian Rangers, part of the Army Reserves, where they constitute 25.5 percent of the force. The overall representation of Aboriginal peoples, excluding the Rangers, falls to 1.3 percent as a percentage of the total force. The main reason for this over-representation is the fact that the Canadian Rangers provide a military presence in remote and isolated areas of Canada, where many Aboriginal communities are located.

CF Strategies

Since 2002, the CF has fallen under the Canadian Employment Equity Act (EEA), although there are specific regulations to adapt the provisions of the Act to account for the operational effectiveness of the CF. The Act, constituted in 1986, and revised in 1995, has the purpose of achieving “equality” in the workplace so that no person be denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability, and, in the fulfillment of that goal, to correct the conditions of disadvantage in employment experienced by women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of “visible minorities.”14 Compliance with the EE Act is monitored by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

In accordance with the Act, the CF has:

  • Collected information on its members through self-identification;
  • Conducted an Employment System Review;
  • Published an annual EE Plan; and
  • Conducted briefings and seminars on EE.

As well, within the Department of National Defence (DND), EE Advisory Groups (AGs) have been created, one for each Designated Group, and each AG is championed by a senior General/Flag Officer. These groups operate both at the strategic level and at the local levels. The Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG) oversees matters related to Aboriginal members in the CF. At the unit level, there are staff that oversee EE matters; however, this varies among organizations.

In addition to cultural, dress, and dietary accommodation policies, several programs are in place to enhance the participation of Aboriginal members in the CF, including:

  • The CF Aboriginal Entry Program (CFAEP), a special, remunerated three-week recruiting program that can lead to full-time Regular Force training and employment opportunities to qualified Aboriginal peoples;
  • Bold Eagle, an Army recruiting program that includes a six-week Army Reserve Basic Military Qualification (BMQ) course;
  • Raven, an Aboriginal recruiting program of the Navy Reserve focusing on youth development; and
  • A new Aboriginal Leadership Opportunity Year (ALOY) at the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) started in 2008, with the aim of providing a one-year, no obligation trial for select Aboriginal youth to undergo academic, military, and athletic development at the College, with appropriate cultural supports.

In addition, the Director of Human Rights and Diversity (DHRD) of the Canadian Department of National Defence hosts quarterly Aboriginal Forums, which are meetings between the CF and representatives of National Aboriginal organizations, National Aboriginal Veterans, Aboriginal community members, and other government departmental representatives. The purpose of the Aboriginal forum is to discuss CF Aboriginal programs and Aboriginal recruitment and to have input and suggestions from the Aboriginal attendees on ways the CF can improve outreach and communication with Aboriginal peoples.

A member of the Visiting Schools Program performs a dance

DND (32 Brigade Group) photo LC2006-009-003 by Corporal Phil Cheung

A member of the Visiting Schools Program performs a dance to promote and educate with respect to native culture, Toronto, Ontario, 24 May 2006.

New Zealand Context

New Zealand is a much smaller country than Canada, both in land area and population. Its population has passed the four million mark, and, based upon a 2006 Census, there were 4,143,279 people in the country, an increase of 8.4 percent since the 2001 Census.15

The majority of New Zealand’s population is made up of people of European origin, followed by Māori, Asian, Pacific Islander, and others of mixed or unspecified origins. The official languages of New Zealand are English and Māori.

At the time of the 2006 Census, there were 565,329 people who identified with the Māori ethnic group, or more than one in seven citizens (14.6 percent). The Māori population has increased by 30 percent in the past 15 years. Over half of all people in the Māori ethnic group identified Māori as their only ethnicity, while 42.2 percent identified with European ethnic groups. The remaining identified with Pacific peoples, Asian, or New Zealander ethnic groups.

The Māori population constitutes over 12 percent of the work force. In 2021, it is predicted that people of Māori, Asian, and Pacific ethnicity will reach 33 percent of the total work force, due to their high birth rates.

The Māori people are progressively more integrated with the non-Māori population in New Zealand, and there is a high rate of inter-marriage between Māori and non-Māori. The Māori people have become increasingly urbanized, politically active, and culturally assertive. The Māori are a more homogenous group than Canadian Aboriginal people. Although some differences exist among tribes, they share a common language, and similar cultural and spiritual practices.

The Māori people arrived in New Zealand from Polynesia in about 800 AD, and many years later, in 1840, they signed the Treaty of Waitangi, wherein they ceded sovereignty to Britain while retaining territorial rights. In the following years, there were many land wars, and the relationship between Māori and non- Māori (referred to as Pākehā) deteriorated.

Historically, as a consequence of colonization, the Māori communities have undergone similar experiences as other Aboriginal populations, including loss of culture and identity and loss of leaders during the wars. The Māori language was not supported until the 1960s, although it was later recognized as one of New Zealand’s official languages.

In recent years, the government has worked toward addressing the situation of Māori people, as well as addressing Māori grievances. Also, a great importance has been placed upon the Treaty of Waitangi, which is viewed as the foundation document for setting the terms for the relationship between the Māori and the Crown.

However, the relationship between the Māori and the Government is not without problems, as was witnessed during the CANZEX visit, when the media reported that several Māori activists were arrested and accused of terrorism. The Māori community denied such accusations.

The socio-economic gap existing between Māori and non-Māori groups has been partially closed, and Māori people are achieving higher educational levels than before, and participating in greater numbers in tertiary service. However, there are still social and educational differences, including lower school completion rates for Māori youth, higher unemployment rates, and higher rates of substance abuse among Māori people.

The Ministry of Māori Development (Te Puni Kokiri) works with Māori communities to facilitate development of such activities as businesses and fisheries, and addressing issues related to settlement of land treaties. The official approach is that Māori people are the ‘drivers’ of their own development, and that “…what is good for Māori is good for New Zealand.”16 The Māori people in New Zealand have a Māori TV channel, radio station, and a Māori political party.

New Zealand has a unique approach toward the Māoris in that the country is considered ‘bicultural,’ and people are generally regarded as Māori or Pākehā. The approach is not to view Māori as a ‘minority’ and Pākehā as a ‘majority,’ but rather, as a ‘partnership’ between the two.

Corporal Willie Apiata, VC

NZDF photo AK 07-0434-19

One of New Zealand’s most famous contemporary individuals, Corporal Willie Apiata, VC, a half-Māori, who won his Victoria Cross in Afghanistan in 2004.

New Zealand Defence Forces

The situation for Indigenous people in the New Zealand armed forces is different from Canada. In New Zealand, the Māoris are better represented within all three services of the armed forces, and across all ranks, including the top leadership. In fact, the Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, Lieutenant- General J. (Jerry) Mateparae, is a Māori. The NZDF is able to attract higher numbers of Māori than their proportionality in the New Zealand population. In 2007, the overall total of Māori serving members in the NZDF was 1673, or over 18 percent of the total regular force (9116 members). However, it should be noted that Māori members are under-represented in the officer ranks and over-represented in the lower ranks.

The distinguished Canadian military historian Jack Granatstein, who writes on behalf of the Council for Canadian Security, states:

One area where New Zealand has done better than Canada is integrating its indigenous Māori minority into its military. Almost half of the army is Māori, and every soldier undergoes a Māori initiation rite that takes him into the warrior tribe. The proportion of Māoris in the country’s Special Forces is higher still, as much as two-thirds. And the current Chief of the Defence Force, General J. Mateparae is a Māori. None of this is tokenism, but it may be that the military is one of the few routes that the Māoris can take to get good jobs. The comparison with the Canadian Forces and its uneasy acceptance of First Nations soldiers is striking nonetheless.17

While Dr. Granatstein is correct in his assessment that New Zealand fares better than Canada in terms of the participation of Māori people in their military, one could argue that his considerations that the Māoris are viewed as a ‘minority’ integrated into a ‘majority’ military culture, and that the military is one of the few good jobs for Māoris, may be based upon false assumptions.

It is true that the military, and also the police, traditionally provide a career alternative, social mobility, training, and benefits to certain youth, such as those with low educational levels, or from areas offering fewer economic opportunities. However, this is not unique to New Zealand, but it is also the case in other countries, including Canada and the United States, and it holds true in particular for non-technical military occupations, such as the infantry branch.

In addition, the Māori people have deep historical roots in the New Zealand Army, going back to the Māori Battalion. After the Second World War was declared, Māori leaders offered the support of Māori men, both for home defence and for combat overseas. The 28th Māori Battalion was formed in 1939 as an all-Māori infantry battalion, organized along tribal lines. By the end of the war, the Māori Battalion was one of the most decorated units in the New Zealand Army.18

Due to the legacy of the Māori Battalion, there are many Māori people with military ancestry and military family traditions. Also, New Zealand’s armed forces value service by Māori people because they have traditionally proven to be good ‘warriors.’

Finally, the New Zealand military provides a positive Māori identity, and, therefore, recruits of Māori ethnicity do not have to sacrifice their own identity when they join the armed forces.

NZDF Strategies

As people of Māori ethnicity have a high propensity to join, there are no NZDF recruiting strategies specific to Māori people. There is, however, an NZDF-wide diversity strategy that “…recognizes the maturing of NZDF equity initiatives from an EEO or compliance and fairness approach to a diversity approach that leverages off differences to enhance operational and individual effectiveness.”19

The NZDF views culture as the starting point. The different environments have adopted a biculturalism policy (air force and navy) or cultural policy (army). An NZDF-wide bicultural policy is being developed as a collaborative effort by the cultural advisors of each service. The policy will be focused upon being responsive to and providing support to Māori members through mentoring, language programs, cultural programs, and education, including the leadership of the organization. To ensure the policy has the appropriate support, it has been recommended that a new high-level committee headed by the Vice Chief of the Defence Force be formed to take ownership of the policy and the planned bicultural strategy.

The Royal New Zealand Navy ‘RNZN Bicultural Partnership Policy’ states:

While recognizing that New Zealand has become a multicultural society, NZ culture is founded on the unique bicultural partnership between the Crown and Māori, which is meant not to exclude multiculturalism, but to recognize biculturalism first.20

The initial vision was to “…have a navy that is culturally integrated, harmonious and sensitive to all.” However, it was realized that “…partnership between the cultures was more appropriate than integration of the cultures,” as integration was seen as a weakening of one or both cultures.

Similarly, the Royal New Zealand Air Force recognizes this strong Māori presence in the New Zealand work force. Therefore, it has adopted a biculturalism policy approach and undertaken a number of initiatives to promote Māori participation, language and culture, as illustrated below in Figure 1.

Figure 1


The New Zealand Army was the first of the three services to build a Marae, the Māori meeting house dedicated to the God of War. All recruits are introduced to Māori culture through the Marae. Leaders are encouraged to take Māori language training and use it in functions. Soldiers learn and perform the Haka (warrior dance). Also, there are cultural advisors in each environment, and EO advisors on each base.

During the visit to different NZDF bases, the Canadian delegation was introduced to several Māori protocols and customs, including:

  • Marae – meeting house;
  • Powhiri – ceremonial welcome;
  • Hui – gathering;
  • Form up – ladies in front;
  • Wero – challenge, warriors come to the gate;
  • Karama – calling, the lady calls visitors and identifies purpose;
  • Chant – welcome dance;
  • Speeches – men sit in front, only men talk;
  • Waiata –woman sings about ancestors;
  • Koha – a gift, usually money;
  • Hongi – pressing of the nose; and,
  • Dining – food breaks the sacredness (tapu).


Through this research, several similarities and differences came to light between the Canadian and NZ experiences and contexts. Also, the research identified potential lessons and best practices from New Zealand that Canada could draw upon to enhance Aboriginal participation, and to support Aboriginal culture in the CF.

The following are examples of similarities between the Canadian and New Zealand experiences in the context of indigenous populations:

  • Similar experiences due to colonization, including loss of culture, language, and identity;
  • Similar social challenges, including health, educational attainment, income, and unemployment rates;
  • Both New Zealand Māori and Canadian Aboriginal people are increasingly urbanized, politically active, and culturally assertive; and,
  • Both cultures are experiencing fast-growing populations.

Some of the core differences between Canada and New Zealand include:

  • The Treaty of Waitangi establishes the basis for the relationship between the Māori and the Crown. No equivalent single document exists in Canada;
  • Māori people appear more integrated with the non-Māori population in New Zealand than Canadian Aboriginal people are with non-Aboriginals;
  • Māoris are comparatively a larger group. One in seven people in New Zealand is of Māori origin, and the Māori population will soon reach 33 percent of the total New Zealand population. Thus, they constitute a ‘critical mass’;
  • The Māoris are a more homogenous group than Canadian Aboriginal people. Although some differences exist among tribes, they share a common language and similar cultural and spiritual practices;
  • The Māori language is recognized as one of New Zealand’s official languages; and,
  • New Zealand is viewed more as a bicultural country, and the relationship between Māori and non-Māori groups is seen as a partnership. Canada is viewed as a multicultural country.

In the military context, Māori people have a high propensity to serve, and, in fact, their representation in the NZDF is significantly higher than in the overall New Zealand work force. This is not the case in the CF. The NZDF’s approach toward the Māori is unique, and it can provide some examples of best practices, such as:

  • Creating synergies between Māori culture and military culture;
  • Encompassing the Māori warrior ethos as part of Army ethos (i.e., Haka warrior dance);
  • Harmonizing Māori ceremonials with military ceremonials;
  • Going beyond ceremonials by creating  a Marae on military bases implementing Marae policy, offering Māori cultural programs, Māori language training, and so on;
  • Not supporting recruiting programs based solely upon ethnicity;
  • Demonstrating leadership support for Māori culture;
  • Drawing upon Māori role models at high levels of leadership; and,
  • Creating partnerships with Māori communities.

In order for the CF to be able to adopt some of the NZDF approaches, the key determining factor is that institutional culture needs to change for the organization to become more open towards diversity. In addition, several issues/barriers need to be addressed. To do so, the CF should consider some or all of the following approaches:

  1. Implement strategies and processes to make the CF an employer of choice, thereby attracting Aboriginal youth to serve;
  2. Implement strategies to enhance the participation and retention of Aboriginal people in the CF;
  3. Adopt strategies, policies, and programs to support Aboriginal culture, and address specific needs of Aboriginal members, through language programs, cultural events, education opportunities, and so on;
  4. Harmonize Aboriginal cultural traditions/ceremonials with CF ceremonials;
  5. Support Aboriginal CF members to reach their highest potential through mentoring and other opportunities in order to increase Aboriginal representation in the officer corps, thus providing role models; and,
  6. Provide support from the highest level of leadership for these initiatives, such as a high-level committee headed by DND’s Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS).


The comparison between CF and NZDF experiences in relation to their respective indigenous population highlights some similarities and some striking differences. One key difference is that the approach is not to view Māori as a ‘minority’ and Pākehā as a ‘majority,’ but rather, as a ‘partnership.’

Despite some significant contextual distinctions, there are opportunities for learning lessons and sharing best practices between the Canadian and the New Zealand militaries. While the CF is showing efforts through the implementation of policies and programs for Aboriginal people, there is a need to change institutional culture and to remove barriers in order to become a truly ‘diversity smart’ organization, thereby becoming an employer of choice for Aboriginal youth. However, without the full support of the leadership, significant change will be problematic.

Corporal Stephanie Skye in the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen-Op-Zoom, Netherlands

DND photo (12 Wing imaging services Shearwater) SW2005-0428-02a by Corporal Stevo J. McNeil

Corporal Stephanie Skye from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry kneels beside the headstone of Private R.C. Thompson, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, in the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen-Op-Zoom in the Netherlands.

CMJ Logo

Grazia Scoppio, PhD, is an Associate Professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, and Senior Staff Officer Learning and Individual Training and Education at the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston, Ontario.


  1. Kia Ora is a Māori language greeting which means ‘be well’ or ‘be healthy.’ It is also commonly used by non- Māori, and is considered part of New Zealand English.
  2. Acknowledgments: My appreciation is extended to a number of individuals and organizations: the leadership of the Canadian Defence Academy, for supporting my research in the area of organizational diversity;  the NZ Defence Force (NZDF) for their invitation to participate in the CANZEX; Director of Human Rights and Diversity (DHRD), Canadian Department of National Defence, for their sponsorship; NZDF staff who organized our visit, especially: Charlie O’Hara Smith; Warrant Officer Doug Wallace; Captain Mark Copeland; the other NZDF Points of Contact in the military bases visited; military and civilian staff met at the NZDF Defence House, and at the bases, for their warm welcome and openness to share information; and, finally, to peers and friends who provided insightful comments on initial drafts of this paper.
  3. Grazia Scoppio, “Diversity Best Practices in Military and Police Organizations: a Comparative Research Project between Canada, Australia, the UK and the US,” in Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2009.
  4. Jane Jenson and Martin Papillon, “The Canadian Diversity Model: A repertoire in Search of a Framework,” CPRN Discussion Paper No. f/19. (Ottawa, ON: Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2001).
  5. See D.A. Thomas, and R.J. Ely, “Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity,” in Harvard Business Review on Managing Diversity. (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002).
  6. Canadian Government, Department of National Defence, Chief of Military Personnel Employment Equity Plan – Fiscal Years 2008/2009 to 2010/2011, internal document. (Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada, 2008).
  7. See Linda Trimble and Jane Arscott, Still Counting: Women in Politics Across Canada. (Toronto: Broadview Press, 2003). Also available online at
  8. Pippa Norris and Joni Lovenduski, “Blair’s Babes: Critical Mass Theory, Gender and Legislative Life,” Faculty Research Working Papers Series, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. (Harvard, MA: Harvard University, 2001), p.2.
  9. Canadian Government, Statistics Canada, Census 2006. (Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada, 2007). Available online www.statcan.ca.
  10. Ibid.
  11. K. McLaurin, “Organizational Values and Cultural Diversity in the Canadian Forces: the Case of Aboriginal People,” in Challenge and Change in the Military: Gender and Diversity Issues, F. Pinch, A.T. MacIntyre, P. Browne, and A.C. Okros (Eds). (Winnipeg, MB: 17 Wing Publishing Office for the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute, 2004).
  12. Canadian Government, Human Resources and Social Development Canada, Employment Equity Annual Report, Employers’ Reports – Aboriginal Peoples. (Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada, 2003). Available online. http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/lp/lo/lswe/we/ee_tools/reports/annual/2003/Chapter5-3-EmployersReports-Aboriginals.shtml
  13. Canadian Government, Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Aboriginal Workforce Participation Initiative (AWPI). (Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada, 2003). Available online: www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/ch/awpi/gde/s2_12_e.html
  14. Canadian Government, Department of Justice, Employment Equity Act, Section 2. (Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada, 1995). Available online http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/E-5.401/48801.html
  15. New Zealand Government, Statistics New Zealand, QuickStats about Māori, 2006 Census. (Auckland, NZ: Government of New Zealand, 2007). Available online: http://www.stats.govt.nz/census/about-2006-census/default.htm
  16. Author’s discussion with Chief executive of Te Puni Kokiri and other senior staff Oct 2007.
  17. J. L. Granatstein, New Zealand’s lessons for Canada’s military, in Globe and Mail. (Toronto, Ontario: CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc., 23 July 2007).
  18. New Zealand Government, National Library of NZ, Return of the 28th Māori Battalion. (Auckland, NZ: Government of New Zealand, 2008) http://www.natlib.govt.nz/collections/highlighted-items/return-of-the-28-maori-battalion-1946
  19. New Zealand Government, New Zealand Defence Force, Valuing diversity: leadership in action, a diversity strategy for the NZDF. (Auckland, NZ: Government of New Zealand, Feb 2007) Available online: http://www.nzdf.mil.nz/personnel-records/personnel-branch/from-equity-to-diversity.htm
  20. New Zealand Government, Royal New Zealand Navy, RNZN Bicultural Partnership Policy. (NZBR 23 Defence Force Orders (Navy) Section 2, 2001). See: http://www.navy.mil.nz

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