Canadian Army Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan OMM MSM CD gave the keynote speech at the Canada 150 Servicewomen’s Salute Dinner at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa ON. Here is a transcript*:
Having women involved in all domains of society has created wealth for our homeland. Countries where men and women both share and contribute equally are the most proper and stable. Societies where women are recognized as full partners have benefited both men and women. This is not a zero-sum game. To make room for one is not about making the other disappear. It’s about all of us getting together to make a better world for our children. And we need everybody and all the help we can get to do that.
Still today, I always feel very awkward when my colleagues say that since they were boys they dreamed to be soldiers. I never had such a dream. As a child, I never considered this to be a possible career. I saw lots of soldiers in the movies, but none of them looked like me. So it never crossed my mind that this was actually for me, and that path simply did not appear to exist for little girls.
I saw lots of soldiers in the movies, but none of them looked like me.
Three greatest obstacles:
- Perception that women are not fit for combat
- The perception that women are weak
- The perception that women cannot be a mother and a soldier at the same time
What I’ve also noticed is that men actually encounter the same obstacles, but for some reason, people decide to ignore it. Instead, those perceptions are constantly directed at women and are often based on emotional arguments that are not very sophisticated.
So, what does the future have in store for us? I think the future will see a greater equality of perceptions between men and women. Yes we do entertain biases against men as well, which do not help and greatly contribute to the stereotypes toward women.
The future will continue to show us that when the time comes to get the job done, even during combat, strength can take many forms. I can certainly attest to the fact that the person who ends up saving the day on the battlefield is not necessarily the solider who runs the fastest around the track or benches the heaviest weight in the weight room. Wars are fought on the battlefield and not around a race track. Well trained and well led soldiers are the ones who win battles regardless of what their gender is.
So, to those who ask me, what could women possibly contribute to the future of their Armed Forces since men have done very well on their own since the beginning of time. I turn this question back at them: what do you bring to the fight as a member of your Forces, and what difference are you making as an individual? The responses are quite similar regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or religious background.
To those who would like to keep me away from danger by telling me that I need protection, what I say is, I don’t need a protector. What I need is a partner.
I see a future where the obstacles I’ve encountered in this era of perceptions based on the expected roles of men and women in our society will slowly fade away; where my son and daughter, who are currently serving in the CAF will be free to make their contribution according to their worth, just the way they are.
I would like to finish with this quote from Winston Churchill, who I think is very relevant to the fight for our future generation of servicewomen, and I dedicate this quote to them:
I hope it’s OK for me to share this video like this – let me know if I’ve broken a rule! My hope is to make it available to more people, especially the transcript which wasn’t included at the original link.