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Advancing international research collaborations

CIMVHR will be participating in NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme to expand research supporting the successful transition and reintegration of military service personnel to civilian life.

Master Corporal Tina Fahie, a member of the Military Police Unit deployed on Operation IMPACT, poses for a photo on September 25, 2020. Credit: Sailor Third Class Melissa Gonzalez
Master Corporal Tina Fahie, a member of the Military Police Unit deployed on Operation IMPACT. (Credit: Sailor Third Class Melissa Gonzalez).

Transitioning out of service is a major turning point in the lives of military personnel. While many have successful experiences, a significant amount face challenging obstacles. In understanding the factors that contribute to a failed military-to-civilian transition (MCT) most of the research has focused on men, leaving a gap in addressing the unique needs of women, particularly around mental health.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) has recognized the importance of supporting women’s successful MCT as a high-level priority within its member and partner nations. This focus has led to a collaboration with the Queen’s-based Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR), a leader in MCT research over the past decade, through NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme. Joined by the Women’s Information Consultative Centre (WICC), researchers, veterans, and policy leaders will participate in a series of consultations and a workshop throughout the year with the purpose of applying a gender lens to MCT research. Focusing on the experiences of women from Ukraine, Canada, and the United States, the goal is to convene leading experts from these countries to translate existing research to policy opportunities and define priorities for new research to advance successful MCT for women.

A launch event marking the start of the collaboration happened on May 19 and reflected the significance and strategic importance of this issue for NATO and the participating lead countries. Representatives delivering remarks included David van Weel, Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO, Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security, and Dr. Kateryna Levchenko, Vice-Chair of Gender Equality Commission of Council of Europe and Government Commissioner for Gender Equality Policy of Ukraine.

“Many of our institutions have long thought that being ‘gender neutral’ or ‘gender blind’ was the fair thing to do, and that in fact treating everyone the same was a way of demonstrating respect and fairness,” says Ambassador O’Neill. “Notably, security forces have long prided themselves on treating everyone the same, and this extended to their supports for the eventual military to civilian transition. But the same treatment often does not result in the same outcomes; people have different experiences and different needs. This research will bring needed attention to the range of needs of diverse women veterans and enable governments to better support women through this critical milestone in their careers and lives.”

  • Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security delivered a welcome address from Canada at the recent NATO SPS Advanced Research Workshop launching the collaboration.
    Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security delivered a welcome address from Canada at the recent NATO SPS Advanced Research Workshop launching the collaboration.
  • Dr. David Pedlar of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) and Ms. Olena Suslova of the Women's Information Consultative Centre (WICC) are co-directors of the NATO SPS Advanced Research Project.
    Dr. David Pedlar of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) and Ms. Olena Suslova of the Women's Information Consultative Centre (WICC) are co-directors of the NATO SPS Advanced Research Project.
  • Attendees of the NATO SPS Advanced Research Workshop included representatives from NATO, government, and participating research institutions, including Principal Patrick Deane and Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse.
    Attendees of the NATO SPS Advanced Research Workshop included representatives from NATO, government, and participating research institutions, including Principal Patrick Deane and Vice-Principal (Research) Kimberly Woodhouse.

CIMVHR’s participation in the SPS Programme lays a foundation for significant development and application in MCT research. Contributing to NATO’s core goals for more than six decades, the SPS Programme is one of the largest and most important partnership programmes addressing 21st-century security challenges bringing together member and partner nations for high impact. At this stage in MCT research, it is already understood that women can experience unique challenges with their mental health, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), employment and income, sense of purpose, and reintegration into civilian society and workplace culture in their transition from military service. Furthering this research within the common transition domains of study, such as health, finances, social integration, life skills, housing, and physical, cultural, and social environments, will not only improve the experiences of women but also reveal the support needed specific to sex and gender for successful MCT for all military personnel.

“Working together through the SPS Programme will hopefully serve as a catalyst to not only significantly advance MCT research but lead to further efforts to support NATO’s strategic objectives,” says David Pedlar, Scientific Director, CIMVHR. “This research will also help meet the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces and provide support to Canada’s military service personnel to ensure a continued sense of purpose and good well-being for them and their families when they transition to civilians. Transition is the key point to get that right.”

Over the course of the year, CIMVHR and WICC will facilitate consultations, an advanced research workshop, and develop a report advancing the subject matter area and identifying immediate knowledge for practice. A potential outcome by 2022 will be the establishment of collaborations or linkages amongst the participating nations on several NATO multi-year projects with the goal of advancing science and progress for women.

For more information about CIMVHR, a hub of 46 Canadian universities, including founders Queen’s University and the Royal Military College, and 14 Global Affiliates with a network of researchers from across Canada, visit their website.