Elghawaby: Those who serve our country should not face discrimination of any kind

The Canadian Forces, like the RCMP, struggle with diversity:

Almost every public institution in our country claims it wants to better reflect the populations it serves. The same is true of our military. Parliament’s defence committee has even begun a study to determine which groups need better representation.

As the nation marks Remembrance Day, it’s important to reflect not only on those who have sacrificed their lives and well-being serving our nation, but those who have had to face racism and harassment in doing so. If such barriers continue to exist, efforts to recruit people of colour and people of various faiths and backgrounds will ultimately fail.

One needs only look to the very top to understand the challenge at hand.

Canada’s defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, has acknowledged facing significant racism throughout his long career in the Canadian Armed Forces. This has been his reality since joining the Forces in 1989 and even more recently. The first Sikh-Canadian to command a Canadian Army regiment has faced racist and vulgar comments on his personal Facebook page, as well as on the Forces’ official page. “I still can’t take this guy seriously as head of the armed forces!” posted one person. “Man, it’s not us! Sikh?”

Consider the case of Bashir Abdi, a Canadian of Somali descent who served for 10 years in the Forces. In 2013, Abdi says he obtained permission to attend Eid celebrations for the day. Yet, when he returned, he was fined and eventually convicted at a military summary trial for being “Absent Without Leave.” He was fired from his post and took his case to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. “As Canadian society and workplaces continue to grow and diversify,” reads his GoFundMe page, “it is imperative that we bring more attention to the issue of fair religious accommodation so that no one else has to experience Bashir’s humiliation.”

Canada’s defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, has acknowledged facing significant racism throughout his long career in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Or take the disturbing episode this past spring, when a group of officer cadets were expelled from the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que., after video emerged of them desecrating a Qur’an with bacon and semen during a cottage party.

The head of Canada’s military, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has admitted that the Forces are struggling to identify those within the ranks who not only hold racist views, but who are actively engaged in white supremacist and right-wing activities. “Clearly it’s in here,” Vance said earlier this fall in an interview.

None of this makes joining the military a particularly endearing proposition, nor will it help improve the numbers. As of 2018, 15.4 per cent of the military were female, 2.7 per cent were Indigenous, and 8.1 per cent were visible minorities. The Department of National Defence has said that by 2026, it wants the military to comprise 25 per cent women, 3.5 per cent Indigenous peoples, and 11.8 per cent visible minorities.

“I used to wonder how Indigenous soldiers who went to residential school felt about serving for a country whose government discriminated against their people,” wrote Indigenous journalist Wawmeesh Hamilton in a recent online post.

At the very least, their contributions must be acknowledged, and existing challenges addressed. That begins with education as well as clear consequences for racist and anti-immigrant behaviours and attitudes.

Success looks like Capt. Barbara Helms, who joined the Forces as its first Muslim female chaplain this past April. And we can look as far back as 1996, when the late Wafa Dabbagh became the first Canadian Muslim woman to wear the headscarf in the Forces. In a 2008 media interview, Lt.-Commander Dabbagh described her experience as“95-per-cent positive.”

As defence committee chair Stephen Fuhr put it recently, “having a diverse, healthy, happy military personnel will have a direct impact on combat effectiveness. So we need to determine that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Among those we memorialize are those who defeated the very worst fascist and white supremacist forces of our time. Lest we forget.

Source: Elghawaby: Those who serve our country should not face discrimination …

Canadian military falling well short of its target for recruiting women

Endemic problem but recruitment and culture change takes time and premature to evaluate success or failure with the new plan. Need to wait 3-5 years before assessing properly:

The Canadian military has barely moved the needle on its ambitious plan to recruit more women, just over a year after the Liberal government introduced its gender-focused defence policy, new figures reveal.

The stated intention of Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance was to have women make up 25 per cent of the Armed Forces by 2025-26.

Statistics released by the Office of the Chief of Military Personnel show that while the number of female recruits coming through the door has increased slightly, it has not been enough to boost overall representation.

As of the end of April, women made up only 15.4 per cent of both the combined regular and reserve forces.

The story is the same for Indigenous Canadians and visible minorities — those recruitment numbers remain just as anemic as they have been for several years.

Indigenous Canadians make up about 2.8 per cent of the Armed Forces; DND has set a goal of getting that share up to 3.5 per cent. Visible minorities make up 8.2 per cent; the target percentage is 11.8.

But the military and the Liberal government have more political capital invested in the effort to get more women into uniform. It’s central to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mantra of gender equality. and to Canada’s desire to put women at the heart of a reformed international peacekeeping system.

The drive to recruit more women comes as the military attempts to overhaul its culture in the wake of a damning report in 2015 by retired supreme court justice Marie Deschamps, who said a “sexualized culture” within the military was behind an endemic problem with sexual harassment and misconduct.

Female recruitment picking up — but slowly

There were 860 women enrolled in the military in the last fiscal year, which ended on March 31 — an increase of eight per cent over the previous year.

It’s not enough, said the chief of military personnel.

“Those are still not meeting the number we need to have in order to meet the 25 per cent target and we’re conscious of that,” Lt.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre told CBC News in an interview.

The slow pace of female recruitment has forced senior brass to take more direct control, he added.

“We recognize it’s going to take a much more disciplined approach, a much more targeted approach to go get more women, more visible minority and more Aboriginal folks to come join the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Lamarre, who insisted the Armed Forces can still hit the target, which was first established in early 2016.

Military looks at foreign recruits to boost ranks

The direction from Vance back then had been to increase the representation of women in the forces by one per cent per year over a decade. The new statistics show the military has seen healthy increases in the number of women applying to be officers, or to join the navy or air force.

But National Defence is having a harder time convincing women to join the army, and to become non-commissioned members of the rank and file.

Lamarre said he believes the military is fighting against perceptions about the kind of career being offered.

“People have a tendency to self-select out before they give it a shot, and I think that’s a mistake,” he said, pointing to the military’s struggle to get women to consider signing up for trades such as aircraft, vehicle and maritime mechanics.

“We are attracting more women into the officer corps, but I think we need to broaden that even more. Part of it is demystifying some of those occupations. Some of them look to be hard and exclusively centred towards men. That’s not the case at all. We have some great examples of women who are operating in every occupation.”

Military’s image problem persists

Others — DesChamps among them — argue that the perception of the military as a tough place to be a woman hasn’t gone away.

Despite the military’s high-profile campaign to stamp out misconduct — known as Operation Honour — and the increasing number of sexual assault cases being tried in the military justice system, many say that little has changed when it comes to the macho nature of military culture.

“In the last three years, in my opinion, more could have been done” to stop harassment and make the military a more welcoming career choice for women, Deschamps told the Senate defence committee last week.

“What I have seen is, not a lot of progress has been made.”

The federal government has faced two class-action lawsuits launched by survivors of sexual assault and misconduct in the military.

The cases entered settlement discussions last winter after it was revealed government lawyers filed a statement of defence that said National Defence “does not owe members of the Canadian Armed Forces any duty to protect them from sexual harassment and assault.”

via Canadian military falling well short of its target for recruiting women | CBC News

Canada’s special forces want to attract women for a job that’s more than kicking down doors

The above table  contrasts the overall representation of the Canadian Forces, RCMP, CSIS and CSE. The latter two organizations, more intelligence-driven than the CF and RCMP, indicate some hope for the strategy:

Canada’s special forces hope to recruit more than just a few good women in the coming years, says the commander of the elite force.

Maj-Gen. Mike Rouleau said the special forces, the highly trained military units that hunt terrorists and conduct covert operations, are considering how they can recruit more women.

More than just a nod toward society’s growing demand for gender balance, having more women in the unit would make it more effective, he said.

This is the future, and it is a bit of James Bond, but if you want to defeat a [terrorist] cellular-based network, you need to be in front of that cell– Steve Day, former commander of counterterrorism unit

“Having female operators would allow us to be more flexible in the battlespace,” Rouleau said in a recent interview. “It would allow us to be more under the radar in certain cases.”

In certain countries, two men walking down the street might draw attention, but having a man and woman conduct the same mission might be less noticeable, Rouleau suggested.

A former commander of the country’s elite counterterrorism unit, JTF-2, which is part of the special forces command, said the need for such mixed gender teams is something Canada’s allies have already recognized.

The more special forces are called on to fight terrorists, the more they will have to act and fight like intelligence agents, rather “door-kicking” commandos, said retired colonel Steve Day, who is now president of Reticle Security.

“Our closest allies routinely deploy male and female alongside each other to do the softer, intelligence-gathering, sensor-type operations,” he said.

“This is the future, and it is a bit of James Bond, but if you want to defeat a [terrorist] cellular-based network, you need to be in front of that cell, and at the moment, we’re not there.”

Clear criteria

Up to 14 per cent of the more than 2,200 Canadian special forces personnel are women, a percentage Rouleau said he wants to increase to 25 per cent.

That figure would be in line with the overall direction of the Canadian military, which has set the same goal.

“We’re an equal opportunity employer,” said Rouleau. “We’d love to have more women in the force.”

It is, however, easier said than done.

Rouleau noted a handful of women currently serve in both the special forces command and the unit that responds to chemical, biological and radioactive incidents.

A few have even tried out for JTF-2, but none have gone on to take the training course, because they failed to qualify, he said.

In order to be successful, Day said, a cultural change is needed within the special forces that recognizes not only the value of women in the field, but the fact that the elite troops are capable of doing more than assaulting a target.

The very first introduction of women into the special forces ranks in 2003-2004 “didn’t go over that well because organizationally we were quite immature when it came to understanding what the selection process would be,” said Day.

“There was a lot of pushback and no end of short-term grief.”

The problem is not simply gender bias, he added.

The selection process of an “assaulter” — a soldier well-suited to combat — is well documented, he said, but the criteria for choosing the best people for more intelligence-based operations is not as well defined. That needs to change, Day said.

Rouleau acknowledged his organization can do more to get out the message that “female operators are not only welcome, but in many cases, they would make us operationally more successful.”

Army under strain

The Liberal government’s defence policy, released last spring, mandated the expansion of special forces by up to 605 personnel, presenting all sorts of challenges beyond the gender issue.

At the moment, troops can only join the elite unit through the regular forces, and up to 94 per cent of those transfers come from the army.

The wider military is having its own problems.

The army currently sits at 47,000, which includes regular and reserve soldiers, as well as Canadian Rangers, who patrol the Arctic. But the regular force is short up to 1,500 troops from its allotted strength of 23,100, according to Department of Defence statistics.

Members of Canadian Forces Special Operations JTF-2 unit storm a ship during a training mission off the shores of Churchill, Man. in 2012. The nature of operations for special forces is changing to include more intelligence gathering. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Senior defence officials insist they’re hitting recruiting targets, but retention of highly skilled members is a problem.

Drawing from an army that is struggling to keep qualified soldiers “is a concern,” said Rouleau, who acknowledged he and his staff are looking for a direct-entry model similar to a program introduced by the U.S. Army, known as 18-Xray.

“You can’t come from the street to be a special forces operator,” said Rouleau. “But that doesn’t mean in the future we won’t have a model that you can come from the street.

“I’m not saying that’s where we’re going. I’m saying we’re looking at alternate options to today’s model to make sure that we’re both capturing the talent that’s out there, but also try, if we can, to alleviate some of the pressure from the services.”

The American system gives recruits the opportunity to “try out” for special forces right away.

U.S.officials say it does not guarantee a recruit will be accepted, only that they will be given the opportunity to demonstrate they have “the right stuff.”

Source: Canada’s special forces want to attract women for a job that’s more than kicking down doors

With wider search for soldiers, Canada’s military broadens horizons [in hiring]

The The numbers are abysmal as shown above in the dated chart but it does appear that the military is taking more serious steps to address the gaps.

It would also be nice if their annual employment equity report would be posted publicly rather than having to request it from the Library of Parliament:

First, though, comes a significant and persistent challenge: getting more Canadians to join.

The Forces have struggled for years to hit recruiting numbers, resulting in thousands of unfilled positions such as pilots and technicians.

That’s why fixing the recruiting system is a top priority, said Lt.-Gen. Charles Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, whose role is to oversee all aspects of human resources in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Central to that goal is making the military more inclusive, diverse and attractive to all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

“Our population doesn’t look like all white guys,” Lamarre said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“If you want to get the very best people – the very smartest, most capable, most committed and most ingenious – then you need to look broadly and not exclude groups that would be very useful to you.”

There is more to the push towards increased diversity and inclusiveness than simply recruiting, though that part of the equation is vitally important.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada’s chief of the defence staff, recently released a diversity strategy in which he noted that Canada was becoming more diverse – and the military needed to follow suit.

Doing so would be necessary to attract and retain people, Vance wrote, as well as to ensure the military continued to reflect the society it is sworn to protect, and to increase its effectiveness on missions abroad.

That’s why the Forces appear to be turning a page: leaders are recognizing the real importance of diversity, said Alan Okros, an expert on diversity in the military at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto.

“This idea that people with different views, different experiences, different skill sets are going to make the military stronger has been kind of coalescing and coming together for about a year and a half,” Okros said.

“This isn’t a luxury, this isn’t social engineering, this isn’t political manoeuvring or political correctness. This is now an operational requirement.”

Vance has since taken the unprecedented step of ordering the military to grow the percentage of female personnel to 25 per cent in the next decade, up from 15 per cent.

Recruiters are now launching targeted advertising campaigns and reaching out to women who previously expressed an interest in a military career but didn’t join.

Senior commanders, meanwhile, are reviewing everything from uniforms and ceremonies to food and religious accommodations to see whether they meet the requirements of a more diverse force.

Lamarre plans to speak Monday at a citizenship ceremony in Ottawa in hopes of explaining to new Canadians what he describes as “a tangible way in which they can serve their nation.”

And he hopes to sit down with Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and other indigenous leaders to talk about ways to reach out and attract people from those communities.

Others within the military are getting in on the action too, with the head of the navy, Vice-Admiral Ron Lloyd, issuing a directive last week encouraging his sailors to attend Pride parades in uniform.

Vance is expected to issue a similar directive to the rest of the military in the coming days.

Not everyone agrees with what the military is doing, Lloyd acknowledged, including some of those who are already in uniform. But changing the face of the Forces isn’t just some feel-good exercise, he said.

“In order to be successful in the future, we need to be able to recruit from the entire population.”

There are other challenges to overcome besides convincing some current personnel of the importance of diversity.

The military is still trying to overcome years of bad headlines about the treatment of women and members of the LGBT community by adopting a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct.

There has also been a historic lack of interest in the Forces by many ethnic communities, particularly those that trace their origins to countries where the military has a bad reputation.

And then there are the problems identified by auditor general Michael Ferguson last year, namely that the recruiting system is struggling with red tape and the effects of Conservative budget cuts.

Source: With wider search for soldiers, Canada’s military broadens horizons – The Globe and Mail

Canada’s top general launches push to recruit women

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001The Forces have struggled with increasing diversity for some time, as has the RCMP. The target of a one percent increase per year is ambitious; their annual employment equity report (available from the Library of Parliament) will allow public tracking of progress over the next few years:

Canada’s top general has set out to transform the military with a new effort to boost the number of women in the ranks.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, revealed on Friday that he has given a directive to do what good intentions have so far failed to accomplish — get more women into the Canadian Armed Forces.

Vance said he has tasked Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross, the chief of military personnel, to boost the number of women in uniform by 1 per cent a year over the coming decade.

That would allow the military to meet its long-standing goal of having women make up 25 per cent of its members.

“I have asked Gen. Whitecross to increase the percentage, through retention and recruiting, . . . of women in the armed forces by 1 per cent a year over the next 10 years,” Vance told a defence conference on Friday.

“If we don’t make it a task, if I don’t give an order, it’s not going to get done. We can’t just hope that it happens. We’re going to try hard to meet our diversity targets the same way.”

Officials said later that Vance had given the directive on Wednesday during a meeting with Whitecross.

…But meeting the goal could be a challenge. There are some 15,000 women in uniform, making up 15 per cent of the regular and reserve forces.

In all, the defence department has about 66,000 full-time soldiers, short of its approved staffing level of 68,000, and about 21,000 reservists, well below its target of 27,000.

In the past, many women who joined the military were familiar with the organization, thanks either to family connections or past involvement with cadets, Leuprecht said. As the military now looks to recruit more women, it will have to broaden its appeal, he said.

Leuprecht also said that the armed forces must work to have women better represented in trades across the organization, rather than concentrated in areas such as logistics and medicine.

Vance made clear Friday that his efforts to diversify the ranks won’t stop with boosting the number of women.

“I’m also wanting to increase all manner of diversity in the armed forces to better reflect the Canadian public. It’s important. We are of the public,” Vance said.

Visible minorities currently make up 6.5 per cent of the armed forces, short of the goal of 11.8 per cent. Aboriginal peoples represent 2.5 per cent of those in uniform, shy of the goal of 3.4 per cent.

Military trying to cut recruitment targets for women despite expert’s report

Military, RCMP, CSIS.001RCMP envy (the RCMP successfully managed to negotiate lower targets). Declaring victory by changing the goalposts.

Seriously, there are particular challenges for both the Canadian Forces and the RCMP, but this approach only gives the impression that changing the targets is more important than improving recruitment and retention.

The above chart summarizes the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and CSIS. Only CSIS has a strong employment equity record, but the nature of their work, analogous to much policy work and IT makes it that much easier.

Interestingly, all three organizations do not post their reports. These have to be requested from the Library of Parliament (which is efficient in providing them):

The Canadian Armed Forces is now in consultations with Employment and Social Development Canada and the Canadian Human Rights Commission over how those targets are calculated in hopes they can be brought down to what the military argues are more realistic levels.

Lt.-Cmdr. Meghan Marsaw said in an email that the most recent consultations with ESDC and the human rights commission were held over the winter, though she couldn’t say when any new targets would be set “as further consultation is required both internally and externally.”

Documents obtained by the Citizen last year showed the Canadian Armed Forces wanting to cut the target for women from 25.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent. It also wanted to change the targets for visible minorities from 11.7 per cent to 8.2 per cent, and for aboriginals from 3.3 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

Military officials would not confirm whether those are still the proposed targets.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is currently conducting an audit of the Canadian Armed Forces to determine if the military is taking adequate action to increase diversity within the ranks. The commission regularly audits all federal departments and agencies.

Some have previously cautioned against cutting the targets for fear the Canadian Armed Forces will then scale back efforts to increase the number of women as well as visible minorities and aboriginals in uniform. They say the military should strive to represent the country’s demographic make-up.

However, others say that maintaining unrealistic targets could force the military to dilute recruiting standards. They also say it could draw away resources better put to other uses.

Military trying to cut recruitment targets for women despite expert’s report | Ottawa Citizen.

Overall interest in military careers low for Black, Latin-American and Filipino Canadians | National Post

Not particularly surprising, nor is the usual bureaucratic response – change the targets (RCMP had managed to do so a number of years ago):

The findings come as National Defence has been looking to cut legally mandated recruitment targets for women, visible minorities and aboriginals in uniform, a move that has prompted sharp debate in military circles.

While the military is expected to aim to have 11.7% of those in uniform be visible minorities, the actual number is 4.2%.

While that represents an increase from previous years, documents obtained by the Citizen show defence officials have been pushing to cut the target to 8.2%.

Those lobbying for a change will point to the survey of black, Filipino and Latin American Canadians as proof the current employment equity goals are unrealistic. Others, however, will say the report proves recruiting efforts need to change.

The survey saw less than 1% of respondents from the three ethnic groups cite the military from a list of careers they would be interested in pursuing, or which they would recommend to a young person.

Similarly, about 20% of respondents from each of the three groups said the military was the career they would be least interested in pursuing or recommending to someone else.

Overall interest in military careers low for Black, Latin-American and Filipino Canadians | National Post.

Matt Gurney: Quotas have no place in our military

The predictable reaction to the story regarding revising Canadian Forces diversity targets downward (Canadian military hopes to cut hiring targets for women, minorities).

There is merit in the argument that the military recruiting base tends to be more rural and more white. But merit arguments sometimes also disguise unconscious biases and preferences. Having targets (I oppose quotas) ensures focus on what is a likely long-term challenge:

A more diverse military is a desirable goal, of course — albeit one that should be treated as completely secondary to the primary objective of fielding a competent force. And as Canada becomes increasingly diverse, the military naturally will draw recruits from a wider pool of applicants. But as it stands now, many recruits join to escape local economic difficulties in parts of the country that are less multicultural than our large cities, or to honour long family traditions of service. We owe all of them a fair chance and, of course, our thanks.

But we owe the country a properly trained and equipped fighting force, regardless of what it looks like. If someone is willing to put on the uniform and defend Canada and our values abroad, and meets reasonable definitions of fitness and suitability, that’s all that matters. Our soldiers defend the country, not just those who look like them.

Matt Gurney: Quotas have no place in our military | National Post.

Canadian military hopes to cut hiring targets for women, minorities


Currently, the military is expected to aim for these targets: females should make up 25.1 per cent of full-time military personnel and reservists; 11.7 per cent should be visible minorities; and 3.3 per cent should be aboriginals.

Those target numbers are lower than for other federal departments, in recognition of the unique nature of military service.

The Canadian Forces place well compared to many of Canada’s allies, particularly on the percentage of women in uniform. The military has also seen recent progress in the number of visible minorities and aboriginals joining up.

Yet it has never actually met its targets. Women currently account for 15 per cent of personnel in uniform, a number that hasn’t changed in several years, while visible minorities represent 4.2 per cent, and aboriginals 1.9 per cent.

The proposed targets, contained in a briefing note to Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse from February, are 17.6 per cent for women, 8.2 per cent for visible minorities, and 2.6 per cent for Aboriginal Peoples.

Canadian military officials have previously highlighted the importance of increasing diversity within the Canadian Forces given the country’s changing demographic makeup, which includes more visible minorities and a growing aboriginal population.

“The changing makeup of Canada’s population makes it mission critical that the (Canadian Forces) take proactive measures to be inclusive for men and women of all cultures,” rear-admiral Adam Smith wrote in 2011 when he was chief of military personnel.

Chantal Fraser, a retired lieutenant colonel who spent the last part of her 28-year career looking at employment equity in the military, is worried about the impact reducing the targets would have on the Canadian Forces and their connection to average citizens.

“If we reduce the goals, then they don’t have to strive as hard to reach them,” she said. “And we may end up in a situation where the Canadian military no longer reflects Canadian society. And that’s bad news no matter what country you live in.”

Fraser said the problem isn’t unrealistic targets; it’s that the Canadian Forces aren’t doing enough to recruit women, visible minorities and aboriginal people.

That includes measures to improve the work-life balance for women; focus recruitment efforts on the country’s three biggest cities for visible minorities and on the North for aboriginals; and showcase people from those communities who are already in the military.

Canadian military hopes to cut hiring targets for women, minorities.

Pluralism accommodated: Canada’s religion, state relationship

An interesting overview from a former military chaplain on how Canada, and the military, have addressed multiculturalism and pluralism from a faith perspective. Silent on the recent cuts to the chaplain program that disproportionate hit on non-Christian religions.

With decades of real life experience in peace, peacekeeping, and war, the chaplain branch has developed a strong expertise in religion/state affairs. The focus of the chaplain is service to all members and their families. Chaplains provide services that include pastoral counselling, advocacy, the promotion of spiritual wellbeing, and facilitating the faith requirements of everyone. In order to provide leadership to the Canadian military and to complete their mission in operational theatres, commanding officers turn to chaplains for their understanding of ethics, deep-seated conflict, and world religions. Chaplains work together in effective teams regardless of their gender, rank, sexual orientation, creed, or cultural background. This is a group of religious professionals who are long past any effort to proselytize people from one faith group to another, acknowledging such activity as arrogant and ineffective. To ensure the highest quality of service the chaplain branch has a sophisticated training program for their vocation, an advanced system of professional oversight, internal monitoring/promotion of well-being of chaplains, a code of ethics, long-term planning mechanisms, and well-designed accessible manuals.

Pluralism accommodated: Canada’s religion, state relationship | hilltimes.com.