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22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base celebrates military women’s accomplishments on International Women’s Day


As part of International Women’s Day, the military crew at 22 Wing/Canadian Forces Base are celebrating women’s accomplishments in the Canadian and U.S. military.

The base played host to a speaker series consisting of a panel of six military women who spoke about their time as a servicewoman in the Canadian or U.S. and how to break barriers that women face when joining the armed forces.

"We've done a really good job of making our program accessible to everybody,” said 104 Brilliant Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps’ Commanding Officer Lieutenant Lorie Hall.

“For the cadets, it's knowing that it's not just for the boys."

United States Air Force’s (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel Juliana Bruns said International Women’s Day is a day to learn, reflect and most importantly celebrate women’s successes in the military.

"When I started I had to do a lot of different push-ups. I was not strong on my upper body. I has to learn how to become stronger. Now the policies have changed. It's now all about your intellectual capacity and passion for your country,” Bruns said, recalling joining the USAF 18-years ago.

Women have been serving in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) since 1885. They were initially restricted to nursing, however gradually the Canadian military adapted.

Women nurses were called upon during WWI. In total, 3,100 Nursing Sisters served in the ranks of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Of that number, 2,500 went overseas to staff military hospitals in England, Egypt, Greece and on the western front in France and Belgium, where they also served in casualty clearing stations close to the front.

When war broke out in Europe for the second time in 1939, demands for women to have a larger role and the shortage of manpower resulted in the further employment of Canadian women in many military trades that had previously been closed off to them.

Following the organization of the Canadian Women's Army Corps and the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division) in 1941 and the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service in the next year, over 45,000 women entered the wartime forces.

They served in clerical, administrative, communications and other kinds of support personnel, allowing men to enter combat. Like the members of the medical services, they saw duty in the rear areas of fighting theatres.

When WWII ended, Canada significantly reduced the size of its armed forces. All three women’s divisions were disbanded in 1946, before being re-established in 1951 and then eliminated in 1968 when the forces were reorganized. From that point on, women and men served in the same units.

By the mid-1960s, the government wanted the Canadian forces to mirror society, where women were increasingly part of the paid labour force. It used that mandate for guidance on the recruitment and employment of women.

Other political influences, such as the 1971 Royal Commission on the Status of Women and the Canadian Human Rights Commission ruling of 1989, combined with military trials of women's effectiveness in non-traditional roles, systematically removed the barriers to full and equal service by women in the forces.

The last barrier to full integration in the CAF, the prohibition on service in submarines, was reversed in 2001. Today, women play a pivotal role in defending Canada’s safety and security.

The latest statistics show around 20 per cent of military personnel in the CAF are women.

"Canada is actually one of the countries that has the largest ratio of women in its force in the world," said 22 Wing Commander Richard Jolette.

The Canadian military was one of the first military body to allow women to serve in any occupation in the military. Today, women are able to take on any role they choose.

"Whether it's a fighter pilot, in infantry or someone providing logistical support, that job is for anyone and that's the message I would pass on to women," said Jolette.

The military women want to emphasize to the next generation of young girls thinking about a career in the armed forces to speak up and break the metaphorical glass ceiling.

"We have opportunities and we need people like you that can bring a better future,” said Bruns.

“The sky’s the limit.” Top Stories

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