By Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan, Commander 2nd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force (East)
In Canada, October is Women’s History Month. I would like to pay tribute to all those women and men who preceded us and who believed in the contribution of women to the Canadian Armed Forces, encouraged it and supported it.
Today, the Canadian Armed Forces is a world leader in terms of the proportion of women in its ranks and in terms of opening up all of its trades to women, whatever they may be. We are here because for over 100 years, pioneers have been able to chart the path; my generation and those who follow will be eternally grateful.
Women’s History Month allows us to take a few moments to see how much we have evolved by recognizing the contribution of women in the armed forces, government and society. It’s clear to me that the fact that women are involved in all areas of society creates wealth.
Men and women are winners in societies in which women are full partners.
I encountered several obstacles during my career in the Army, the three main ones being: the perception that women are not fit to fight; the perception that women are weak; and the perception that women cannot be both mother and soldier at the same time.
What I have observed, however, is that, in fact, men also face the same obstacles, but, for one reason or another, we choose to ignore it. Nevertheless, these perceptions are, for the most part, constantly directed towards women and based on unsubstantiated emotional arguments.
There are those who want to protect us from danger. I tell them that I do not need protection, I need work partners. It’s not about who’s the best, the fastest, or the strongest. From experience, I can say that the one who saves the situation on the battlefield is not necessarily the fastest-running soldier on the racetrack or the one who lifts the most weight in the gym. War is won on the battlefield – not at the gym.
Making room for one does not mean getting rid of the other or relegating it to second place. On the contrary, it is about joining forces to contribute to a better world for our future and that of our children. And to get there, we need the input of everyone – regardless of gender, sexual orientation or colour.
The future will demonstrate that when the time comes to do the actual soldier’s job or fight, curious things happen and strength can take many forms.
Therefore, I see a future where the obstacles I have encountered during this period of perception about the expected roles of men and women in our society will gradually fade – a future in which our sons and daughters will be free to contribute their true worth, while being accepted for who they are.
Finally, I am grateful to the extraordinary men and women who I have had the privilege of meeting, working with and leading.
You remain my greatest source of inspiration and you make all the difference for Canada.