Child Soldiers and at‑Risk Youth


This course has been developed by the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative (RDCSI) at Dalhousie University. It has been designed for the needs and experiences of the Canadian security sector, particularly military and police organizations, to provide a comprehensive overview of the issue of child soldiers from a domestic and international perspective. It aims to help equip security sector actors in Canada with relevant tools and knowledge to respond to this issue.

The course has been broken into four key units that will explore how children are vulnerable to being used by adults to fuel and sustain conflict both domestically and internationally. The use of children in international conflicts has been well documented but rarely comprehended in terms of how to prevent such crimes. This course will undertake a comparative approach to understanding the use of children by armed groups, forces and gangs across both domestic and international contexts. The approach is one that will help us to understand the security dimensions that occur as a result of using children and how to make a long-term impact in preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Whether working domestically or internationally, students of this course will come out of it better informed and ready to contribute to the protection of children from the abuse and violence of contemporary armed conflict.

Learning objectives

Following successful completion of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Identify why and how children are used by armed groups, gangs and forces.
  • Identify where children are used by armed groups, gangs and forces, domestically and around the globe.
  • Understand and discuss the security dimensions of preventing the use of children by armed groups, gangs and forces.
  • Understand new pedagogical approaches to apply new knowledge on recognizing and preventing the use of children by armed groups, gangs and forces.

What is the difference between a child soldier in Africa and a youth gang member in Canada? Prior to taking this course, I would have had a much different answer than the one I now hold. Now my answer to that question would be, "there is no difference in their roles, as it is only how they are perceived." This course will expose the participant to many concepts that will demonstrate the techniques that gangs utilize in Canada to identify, recruit, induct or radicalize youth are essentially the same approaches used overseas in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America to recruit child soldiers. It will also show how the activities undertaken by child soldiers and gang members are very similar roles - from gathering intelligence/ keeping watch, drug mules/porters, sex slaves/prostitutes and other similar activities. The course will also introduce the participant to ideas and methods to assist in combating the challenges posed by these groups/gangs, to identify partnerships that can assist in prevention of the use of children, and getting children/youth out of these groups. I would highly recommend this course to front line police officers, Gang Enforcement Units, Organized Major project units, school/youth liaisons and police officers considering UN/EUROPOL missions."

RCMP "E" Division HQ
Federal Serious and Organized Crime
Major Projects