Canada’s only female defence minister was in 1993. Is it time for another?


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Ottawa: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being urged by several experts on sexual misconduct in the military to name a new defense minister as he prepares to form a new cabinet after Monday’s federal election.

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The calls are based on the belief that Harjit Sajjan has lost credibility when senior commanders describe themselves as an existential crisis within the Canadian Armed Forces.

“It’s not just fiction,” said Maya Eichler, head of the Center for Social Innovation and Community Engagement in Military Affairs at Mount St. Vincent University in Halifax, of Sajjan returning to her post from 2015.


“It will show the government that it is completely out of touch with how people feel about this issue and the kind of bold action that is needed.”

Yet while Eicher believes it is time for a woman to take over as Canada’s next defense minister, she and others have cautioned that such an appointment would be successful in the right person and role. The support needed to help this happen should be included.

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“Like any discussion about choosing someone for a position of power based on their gender, it’s important to make sure the person selected is set up for success and not failure,” Eichler said.

“While having a woman in the rank of Minister of National Defense is important, it is not just someone (member of parliament) or women who will be able to do the job.”

Worryingly, hiring someone who doesn’t have the requisite skills and experience is what many believe is a long-overdue change in military culture, while many others file in a challenging portfolio. Management can also hurt rather than help.

Those other issues include various military missions around the world, planned purchases of billions of dollars in new equipment, and major turmoil among senior ranks.

“The hiring of a woman can be a good thing, because it will bring new perspectives to the portfolio,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoin of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“But tying her appointment to the current crisis will undermine her ability, if the military is having a hard time with culture change, and used as a justification for not having a woman as an MND for the next thirty years.” Will go.”

The only woman to serve as Canada’s Minister of Defense was Kim Campbell, who held the position for six months in 1993 before serving five months as Canada’s only female Prime Minister.

Megan McKenzie, the Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC, called Campbell’s experience as prime minister a “glass cliff” where a woman is set up after failing. being placed at the top.

Campbell took over from Brian Mulroney at a time when voters were already fed up with his Progressive Conservative government, and when the PC was reduced from 156 seats in the House of Commons to two during the 1993 federal election.

“The main thing in this position is to call him into a leadership role after another senior male failed so seriously that his job was insurmountable,” McKenzie said.

“And then what happens is that the failures rest on that person, and you have a conversation: ‘Well, maybe a woman couldn’t have been good in that role, or she wasn’t a good fit for the job. And rightly so. It just happened. Kim Campbell. She was put in an impossible position.”

Canada is not alone when it comes to a man as defense minister, with only seven of the 30 members of the NATO military alliance having a woman minister. Germany and France are also the only two G7 countries with female defense ministers.

Among the names tied around as to Sajjan’s chances of succeeding are Employment Minister Carla Qualtro and Public Procurement Minister Anita Anand, both of whom have played key roles in Ottawa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need a minister of national defense who is ready to make decisions that may not be well-liked within the Department of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces,” Duval-Lantoin said.

“If Qualtro and Anand have demonstrated this kind of leadership, then yes. But it must be because they have those skills, not just because they are women.”

Like many others, Sam Samplonius is of the view that what is important is not the gender of Canada’s next defense minister, but whether it is his true commitment to addressing the issue.

“As (military sexual trauma) is not a women’s issue, it is not the gender of the Minister of National Defense that will guarantee the success of the norms change,” said It’s Not Just 700 co-president Samplonius. Engaging survivors of military sexual misconduct.

“Whoever is appointed needs to be fully informed about the issue, proposed solutions are already present in numerous reviews and reports, and on the agenda to support individuals affected by (sexual trauma). A commitment to keeping initiatives and programs targeted and developed for the

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on September 26, 2021.


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