Condom usage by Canadian military personnel has increased dramatically since 2002. More than 2300 Canadian troops are deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
In 1999, Canadian soldiers used 295,200 condoms supplied free of charge, no questions asked, by National Defence. That number fell to 25,355 condoms in 2002, but has been increasing ever since, and reached more than 300,000 in 2005.
Canadian military authorities give no explanation for the fluctuating numbers, but the increases may appear more dramatic than they really are. Year over year condom distribution to the Canadian military looks like this:
In other words, there were more condoms purchased for distribution in 1999 than in 2004. Although Canadian military authorities offer no explanation, the lower numbers in 2001 and 2002 look like aberrations, possibly explained by differences in reporting methods.
In the Canadian forces sex between military personnel is strictly forbidden, as is sex between military and non-military personnel such as journalists, interpreters and other support staff.
In fact, it is well-known that soldiers have often used visual cues to indicate "Do not disturb." For example, at the now-closed Camp Julien base, when a white T-shirt was draped over the back of a light armoured vehicle it was understood this meant sexual activity was going on inside the vehicle. Signals like this are as old as military activity itself.
Canadian military leaders have clearly decided that preventing disease is more important than being overly judgemental about sexual activity. As one spokesperson has said, "Our (role) isn't to be judgmental. It's to keep people safe."
This underlines the official policy position of the Canadian military. They distribute free condoms to help keep soldiers safe and healthy. Both at home and abroad the official policy is "Don't ask, don't tell."
Even among the general public there seems to be a recognition that young men and women will be sexually active when confined in a typical military environment. While there may be concerns about the influence this could have on the family life of soldiers, or the possibility of strained relations between military personnel, health concerns generally take precedence.