CAF Story | Diversity is a Strength for the Forces

Lieutenant-Commander Desmond James

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Being a minority growing up in the 70’s in Canada when immigration doors were open to people from my background was rough. There was a lot of racism, there was a lot of prejudices, there was a lot of preconceived notions about people.

When I moved to Halifax, I was working with a marketing company, and I’m living with these Navy guys. I start to kind of piece things together of what they’re telling me.

And then one day, I drove by… I was downtown, I drove by and there was a Recruiting Centre sign, but I went in to find out more and I came out as a MAR SS Officer driving warships. That was awesome. So I did that for three years in the Naval Reserve. And after three years, I realized I loved what I was doing. The job was completely different to anything I could have been doing in civilian world.

And then you get to a point, at least for me, where I didn’t want to make money for people. I wanted to do something different.

It’s hard to explain how it becomes a part of your life. I don’t want to say people live and breathe the military because I don’t necessarily think that. But I can definitely see how it becomes more than just, just a role you’re fulfilling at a certain time.

My name is Lieutenant-Commander Desmond James. I’m a member of the Royal Canadian Navy.

My background had a massive impact when we were in Afghanistan, and looking it in a certain way allowed me to have an interaction that was beyond what other people were having.

I can attest to the fact that diversity is an effective tool. You can feel the difference.

I can have lunch with the interpreters or dinner with the interpreters. They would have all the local food. I’d be sitting down on the carpets with them, and exchanging stories about backgrounds. And I felt absolutely a part of that. I can guarantee you, the other guys did not feel like that. They were taking me to one of our security patrols and I was one of the point guys. They weren’t hanging out with me, they were actually up front, and there was a person coming. And I had to get him to stop and had to check him. But he was carrying melons that he had from the field and he was offering me a melon. And you realize that that’s their food. He’s offering it to me because we’re providing some level of security to them.

It’s those kinds of experiences where you just… your heart feels really warm. It’s so cheesy, but it feels like that.

Yeah, you know you make a difference and perhaps that’s why at the end of the day, you come home with a smile on your face, at least for us, when we are away, we are doing something that is really important.

So, when we talk about diversity being a strength in the Canadian Forces, I’m an example of diversity being a strength in the Canadian Forces. I don’t know, I just… I love what I do. Love it.

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