Centre for International and Defence Policy

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

“Canada nearly lost 2018 UN mission because it didn't have enough women in uniform”

Yahoo News
19 February 2020 (Read the complete article)


Canada came within a whisker of losing its place in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the fall of 2018 because of the military's inability to consistently deploy enough women to meet the world body's guidelines.

Stefanie von Hlatky, an associate professor of political studies at Queen's University, said the issue is about more than just recruiting more women — it's also about having women with the right skill sets.

"There is typically a high demand [on UN missions] for infantry officers and that is not a trade where women are particularly well-represented," she told CBC News.

"If Canada is to meet, consistently, targets that are imposed by the UN when it comes to the representation of women in UN missions, then it is constantly going to be a strain for the Canadian Armed Forces."

Women already serving in the Canadian Forces could face unique pressure, given their limited numbers.

"There is the consideration that if the Canadian Armed Forces is asked to constantly meet that target and simply doesn't have the numbers to consistently hit the 15 per cent target from rotation to rotation, there might be more pressure on women to deploy more often and might impact the career trajectory of individual women," Von Hlatky said.

The defence minister said he recognizes the challenges and the amount of work it will take to ensure there is meaningful representation by women on UN observer operations.

Harjit Sajjan also defended the government's record. 

"We've worked very hard to ensure that if we've been telling other nations to have more women in peacekeeping operations, that we're going to lead by example, and we have," said Sajjan, who noted Canada has put women in charge of NATO operations and in senior posts within the military alliance.

But NATO, said von Hlatky, does not impose specific gender targets on its missions — and Canada's soaring rhetoric and promises have created expectations.

"I definitely think there is a gap between the rhetoric and the practice," she said.

"I think Canada, in terms of its rhetoric, should be careful to adjust that rhetoric to its means."

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