Special forces looks at recruiting off the street amid shifting demands

The Canadian Forces is considering whether to start recruiting its elite special-forces soldiers straight off the street rather than forcing them to follow the traditional route of first spending several years in the military.

The idea, which is still being debated, comes as Canada's special-forces units are looking for people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and language skills, to operate more effectively around the world.

Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, says more diverse special forces would make it easier to make connections in different parts of world, understand the environment, interact with powerbrokers and figure out ways to respond to changing circumstances.

At the same time, he said expectations within society are changing as young people look at different opportunities available to them, which requires the Forces to make it as attractive as possible to join.

Canada currently has about 2,000 special-forces members, including 120 in Iraq and several smaller teams working in such countries as Belize, Jamaica, Niger and Malaysia.

Yet while Australia and the U.S. have used ``accelerated'' recruiting for their special forces with success, Dawe acknowledges the need to strike a balance to ensure Canada's elite soldiers are properly inculcated into the military's structure and culture.