Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

Canada’s top general launches push to recruit women

Christian Leuprecht in Bruce Campion-Smith article
Toronto Star, February 19, 2016

OTTAWA—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.

The initiative comes as the military is working to transform its culture in the wake of a damning report last year by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps that revealed a “sexualized culture” within the military that she found was conducive to sexual harassment and misconduct.

Military expert Christian Leuprecht said adding more women is vital to transforming the armed forces culture.

If you want to change the culture with regards to women, you’ve got to get more women into the organization. You’ve got to make more of an effort,” said Leuprecht, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University.

While he said Canada does better than many of its allies with women in uniform, Leuprecht said it appears that Vance’s announcement is an attempt to press recruiters to do even better.

“He’s not just putting the organization on notice. He is also trying to signal publicly, ‘Look, we realize we have a challenge here,’ ” he said in an interview Friday.

“Here’s an opportunity for the largest employer in the country to come out and say, ‘We’re going to change things and we’re going to lead by example.’

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