Podcast 2 - UNSCR 1325: Women, Peace and Security: Peacekeepers
Welcome to the first podcast series hosted by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 or UNSCRR-1325. The Security Council originally adopted this resolution on Women, Peace and Security on the 31st of October in 2000. Twenty years later, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces is still upholding the values that this resolution initially laid out for all of its members. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
Hannah Rosen: Welcome to the first podcast series hosted by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 or UNSCRR-1325. The Security Council originally adopted this resolution on Women, Peace and Security on the 31st of October in 2000. Twenty years later, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces is still upholding the values that this resolution initially laid out for all of its members. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and in post-conflict reconstruction. It also stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.
UNSCRR 1325 affirms that peace and security efforts are more sustainable when women are equal partners in the prevention of violent conflict and in the peace-building process. Today we'll have three Champions from the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) speaking to us about how UNSCRR 1325 really is fitting into how the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) operates today. Speaking with us today, we have Major-General Craig Aitchison and Chief Warrant Officer Crystal Harris, who are the co-champions for gender and diversity for operations for the Canadian Armed Forces. We also have Brigadier-General Lise Bourgon, who is the Champion for Women Peace and Security.
This podcast will interchangeably use French and English, there will also be a transcript provided for those who do not understand French or English and would like to read along instead of listening. There also be acronyms used throughout this podcast such as GBA+, WPS, UNSCRR 1325, DND, CAF, etc. For these meetings, they will also be expanded in the transcript, but for now, GBA+ means Gender-Based Analysis +, WPS means Women Peace and Security, UNSCRR is the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, DND is the Department of National Defence, and CAF is the Canadian Armed Forces. Please note that due to COVID-19, audio quality between hosts and participants may differ.
Hello and welcome. We are on to another podcast with the Defence Team here, and today we're lucky enough to have two peacekeepers with us. We have Colonel McKenna and Lieutenant Commander Aubrey-Horvath with us today, and we are just thrilled to be asking some more questions about UNSCR1325 and the Women, Peace and Security agenda. But first, my name is Hanna Rosen, and I'm an analyst with the Directorate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. And I'm joined by my colleague, Nadia, who will introduce herself:
Nadia Blanchard: Hi everyone, I’m the Coordinating Officer with the Directorate for Gender Equality, Diversity and Integration. And before Brigadier General Josée Robidoux and I joined, we were actually working with SJS in the Gender Integration on the CAF side of the Department.
Hannah Rosen: Amazing, okay, and I'll just get our lovely participants to also introduce themselves, so if Colonel McKenna, you'd like to start, that would be fabulous.
Col McKenna: Sure, my name is Colonel Chris McKenna, I was task force commander for task force Mali Rotation 1 back in 2018 / 2019.
Hannah Rosen: Amazing. And Lieutenant Commander Aubrey-Horvath?
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: Hi, I'm Lieutenant Commander Kat Aubrey-Horvath. I am one of the legal advisors in the office of the Judge Advocate General for Canada, and I was deployed to serve on Roto Zero for Task Force Mali with Col McKenna as his legal advisor, as a blue beret peacekeeper.
Hannah Rosen: Amazing! Sorry, I'm just nerding out, I'm very excited for this conversation. I feel like it is one of those things where I don't know how many people, Civilian or DND alike get to talk to peacekeepers. So I feel like this is a really unique opportunity, and especially those who have been deployed on the ground, so I'm just thrilled to get this conversation started. So I'll kind of just get us going right away with our first question. So what does UNSCR 1325 mean to you as a peacekeeper within National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces? And does this personal commitment to the resolution matter as much as the organizational commitment?
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: So this is Kat, for me personally, what matters really, with respect to the United Nations Security Council Resolution, I'm not sure many people other than people who nerd out in my profession read a lot of those, I'm always happy when I find someone who will, and I certainly encourage Col McKenna to read his fair share within theatre. But I think the point of resolutions like that and the 1325 for me, it's about including women in the process, and I guess what I can speak to is the fact that I was one of those women who put on a blue beret, I went to some UN mission and served on the ground. And the point was to do many things, but also just to include women in those roles, and I will not say it was a decision maker, I was there as a legal advisor, so I have a special role. So I don't make decisions, but I certainly get an opportunity, and women like me who are advisors get an opportunity to influence decisions that are made. And I think since a task force really, in my experience was about a team and a team providing good advice to the decision makers like Col McKenna, having women's voices, and mine included on that team did matter. And I can tell you about, from personal experiences leading up to the deployment, I wasn't really sure what to expect. It was my first deployment, I had a one and a three-year-old, and I felt kind of alone as a woman deploying, I wasn't really sure how this was going to be received by my children for one, but I also knew that it was kind of an odd thing outside the military for women to go off when they have one and three-year-old leave them for seven months. And so I expected a little bit of push back, but I did experience a lot more than I anticipated, and I had to kind of grapple with that when my son's daycare providers learned on my deployment and in front of my son asked me: “Well, how can you possibly leave your kids, what are you going to do?” And I didn't really know how to respond. I knew I had to because my son was standing right there and it was important, and so I said: “Well, I'm going to go because that's my job, and I'm super proud that I get to go and represent Canada and do this amazing thing. And I have a grandmother who is super proud of me going into a non-traditional role and working as a peacekeeper”. But then the follow-up question was: “What are you going to do with your kids?” They have another parent. And then the follow-up question to that, when I thought I really nailed it. I put this woman in her place, she came back with: “So are you going to get your mother to come and live with your husband?” And so I thought, is this a question that we ask men when they're deploying? And I actually got to ask Col McKenna because he had children roughly around the same age's mind when he deployed. So I will say, by and large, this is not a question we ask men. So I think when you bring it down to the personal level for resolutions like 1325, and we're talking about barriers to entry, that kind of attitude can be really challenging for women to deal with. And so sometimes it causes us to shy away from putting up our hand to be part of this experience, to be part of those big decisions that get made, because of that role that society sometimes puts on women to be that heart and home role.
When I got to theatre though, I will say things change because I was surrounded by these powerhouse women who were there with us, we had a lot of amazing women. Pilots, Public Affairs, G1, that's the person in charge of all of the personnel, and the finance person is also a female. And suddenly I didn't feel so alone anymore because these women, many more seasoned than myself, spoke to their experiences of having these same interactions for the last decade or more when they are going out or on deployment and how they handle it. So just having women like myself, who felt so alone going in, that was a barrier to entry when I went, but then getting there and having more women who are part of this, having that shared experience, bringing women to the table, putting women in those roles, allowed women like me to feel like: “Hey, there is a place at the table for me and I belong here”. And at the end of my deployment, when I came home, the message that was received by my children especially, they don't remember that I was gone, they don't talk about how their mother left them, they talk about how proud they are that I did the things that I did, they tell everyone, including their teachers about how strong I am. And they talk about the photos that I sent home. One of my son’s heroes is one of our pilots, Jackie, because he saw her fly this huge Chinook, and he's like “I want to be like Jackie”. And so having a boy grows up in a world where he looks up to a pilot in a blue beret who just happens to be female, because she was included is a huge thing. And I'm so honoured to have been part of that experience and part of that amazing team that included so many strong women. And when I came away from it, I wasn't seeing the strong women anymore, I was just seeing the strong performers, I was just so privileged to be a part of that and have that memory.
Nadia Blanchard: Hi, I just want to step in, this is a super positive message, because I'm trying to join into Reserves unit it right now, and I have a three-year-old daughter, and everyone keeps asking me: “Why are you doing that, what are you going to do with your daughter? Well, she has a dad!” And there's that conception at large that you're not supposed to join. You're not supposed to go in the military, and I think we have to break down the barrier. So thank you for sharing that.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: My pleasure and the more I hear conversations like that, the more that those conversations take place, and frankly sometimes they only happen when women are at those kinds of spaces at the table about the shared experience, the more that we move the ball forward and it's not just for women, it's for all of our male colleagues who support us, we're sitting around the table too, and who say, “Oh my goodness, you had to experience that, I never would have thought, no one ever asked me those questions.”
Nadia Blanchard: You wouldn't even question it, the question wouldn’t be asked. It would just be like “Oh yeah, go for it.” For us, this is a huge question. It's interesting.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: Exactly. And so the funny, I think flip side to that for my husband who, was so supportive of me, he has a military career himself that he gave up because he was a member of the US Armed Forces. And he was living across the border at Fort Drum, working at Fort Drum, and he retired in order to allow me to deploy so he could be with our kids. But then he would go to these conferences, because now he's an academic, and he wanted to talk about his work and his and his papers, and you know what people wanted to talk to him about? They wanted to talk to him about the fact that he was staying home with a one and three-year-old, because they thought THAT was the major thing that he was accomplishing. And when I would talk to people at home, even close friends that I liked, you know about how awesome my husband was doing in terms of a job as a dad, they would say to me things like, “Oh my goodness, Ryan's a hero, you're so lucky.” And I thought where everything and everyone is trying to kill me, I'm a lawyer doing a job strapped with a weapon, and they're calling him the hero? Does that make any sense? And so it is such a bizarre experience sometimes as a woman that even when you get to those places, the perception back home is one, you're not doing your job as a mother, and two your husband is the hero for being at home.
Hannah Rosen: Yeah, that's honestly, it's one of those moments where I think you could just sit back and be like, “What did I just hear? Excuse me, what?” And I think even thinking about the fact of like our men colleagues don't usually get asked these questions is, I went to a panel discussion last year on women peace and security, not related to government, and there was a panel of five men and one woman, and at the end of the question period, someone asked the women panelists, “Okay, but your job. It's pretty intense. How do you deal with that, having a family?” and then another man on the panel was like “I think we all have families, I don't know, I just... I feel like that's a pretty normal thing, I feel like we all are kind of balancing some things right now, I don't know if that's a general question for that one person”. And it was just kind of one of those things where I think that person kind of just sat down and was like, ‘Oh, I guess that's... Yeah, sure. I guess everyone has families”. But it's so interesting that even just if that woman even wasn't on the panel, what that question has even been asked of the panelists of how do you manage those competing priorities, how do you...? It's not just a normal job, like you said, you're going away for seven months at a time, and deployments they're not easy mentally, physically, emotionally. And so even coming back, kind of what does that look like, reintegrating back into the family structure and. My hat goes off to you, I don't have a family, and so I can't imagine it even on that end, never mind imagine it as a peacekeeper. So that's my two bits.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: So on the one hand, you do, I mean it was a struggle for me personally, to get out the door, emotionally I had those conversations as I'm sure we all do with ourselves or spouses, can I do this? Am I strong enough? Can I really leave is one and three-year-olds are going to change so much while I'm gone. But ultimately I was reminded through the people that I met, that this is really not just about me. And I think the UN Security Council Resolution speaks that higher level, it's about putting women in these positions and bringing them to the table so that that becomes normalized. And we can talk about it at the macro level, though, I'm not qualified to speak on it, I can talk about at the micro level in my household. In my household, where being a soldier going off to war in the African desert is, you know, that is not something that is the exclusive purview of men, even getting in helicopters, that is not the exclusive purview of men. What is normalized by seeing those images, and hearing the stories that I brought home and what is normalized is that women belong in those positions, that we should be there, and it's right for us to be there. And I missed my kids a lot, but big picture, I want them growing up with that, I want them growing up idolizing someone who may not identify as the same gender as them being a pilot or being a doctor, and not seeing those specialties as being gendered professions.
Hannah Rosen: I couldn't agree more. I think that's my hope for the future is that in general, when we look up to our role models, they're not defined by gender. I know when I was growing up, it was definitely, I want to be like this woman because she's the first in her field to do what she does, and that was my role model. And instead I would like to like to see our future young people look up to people because they love the morals that they stand on, that they love the position that they hold and the passion that they bring to that position, but not anything really related to perhaps their identity or their expression of themselves, and I think that would be a lovely world to live in. But I think we're going to move on to our next question. So, Nadia, do you wanna take it away?
Nadia Blanchard: Okay, so I'm going to use really slow French to ask this one: With the increase in conflicts and humanitarian emergencies due to climate change and the lack of natural resources, women and girls are disproportionately affected. What do you do as a leader or peacekeeper right now to protect women and girls, and how should we plan for the future in this context?
Col McKenna: So I’m going to answer this in English and then I might transition to some French after. So from my point of view, I think that UNSCR 1325 resolution, I think fundamentally acknowledges that men, women, boys, girls, non-binary experience conflict and suffering in very different ways. Certainly for me, it was my fifth operational deployment going to Mali and everything previous to that was really quite combat-focused, and so you're so acutely linked to risk-based decision-making in combat, and the previous to that at Peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, the African experience really demonstrated to me as we collectively as a team, work through some of the really big issues of that theatre to try and understand it from the outset. And realizing that each of these groups of people in a country, experience that conflict and the situation that come to with such a different lens, and then adapting your approach as a peacekeeper to delivering the effects of a mandate you've been given, in that context so that you are respectful of those really different experiences on the ground that people are experiencing and feeling.
Nadia Blanchard: Yeah, that's totally right. And also with the augmentation climate change effects on population we're already seeing with the migrations of populations, and I think we can expect that to happen more and more in the future, so the GBA+ is going to be even more relevant at this point.
Col McKenna: Certainly, and just to follow on that, in Mali, we had a lot of violence that was really, as a result of climate change. You had people whose livelihoods were based on the migration of cattle, and you had the desertification of the Sahel and movement of these sort of nomadic people down into areas that were not traditional grazing lands, that resulted in cattle grazing on essentially arable farmland. And then you have a battle for just the basic resources of life for food and water that occur in that, surrounded by the complexity of violent extremist organizations and the complexity of transnational crime and human smuggling, all of this overlaid with the political situation in Mali. So just to circle back, maybe to the UNSCR 1325 aspect, we were really blessed having people like Kat on our team who had, for one she had a real depth of experience in the United Nations, and two just brought her perspective and her experience to the table. We had a very diverse, relatively diverse group in my headquarters, about 30% female at the time, and not really by design, that was who was ready at the time that the mission was launched on a very short notice. And I ended up having some very strong female voices around the table, and I would say the majority of the big decisions that we had to make as a task force was informed by those forces. I think that's really important that you didn't have a unique single gender lens, you had a bit more of a diverse average.
Hannah Rosen: Yeah, I completely agree. And there are times when I wish I could be a fly on the wall for certain operations or missions that are happening at DND CAF, because I think from a civilian perspective, there are so many things that go on that we just can't know about or just can't understand for the sheer fact of not ever seeing a deployment, not being in theatre, not really seen that kind of lens, but I think that leads us really well into our next question, which is… Please share with me and Nadia, an experience where you saw first-hand how having more women included in the peace-making or the on the ground processes improved the operation that you were deployed on.
Col McKenna: Yeah, so from my point of view; For me, it’s about the rules of engagement, we had fairly complex operations due to the UN’s mandate. It’s not exactly the same rules we’re used to seeing. So training about the rules of engagement was really something new in the UN context for our group. So I asked our lawyer to give us the strategic and political context of the operation. We really formulated our approach for the training for that aspect of the mission. I’ll turn it over to Kat to give us more details about the scenario.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: I’ll tell you about that scenario with respect to self-defence. Defending ourselves as soldiers. We wanted to create a situation so that people identified what that meant for them. What it means for me to act in self-defence. The scenario we used meant that I was there for every session. I saw something happen: when we discussed self-defence in that scenario, when men reacted, they said they didn’t think that using force was wrong, they felt they could use force in self-defence. It took some time, after one or two women, it was noticed that they did not think that they had the time to respond to the threats with words and thought they had to use force with their weapons in that situation.
I will say it in English too, because I think it's really important. The scenario was based on self-Defence, and I got to be a fly on the wall in the room and listen to every single group, and there was many of them doing this training together in small groups. And they would work through a scenario and say... In this situation, would I feel like I needed to act in self-defence would I feel like I had the right to act in self-defence, what level of force is required here? And at first, the men sort of dominated the conversation and stood up and said, “Oh, based on the scenario, I would react by telling, you gotta stop, or, what are you doing, buddy? And I’d use words or I’d yell at him. Or maybe push them away”. Okay, and then the women slowly put up their hand and said, “No. If it was in a dark room and I didn't know what was going on, and I had to split second to act before something really bad happened to me, I'd be going for my weapon right away”. And the reaction is the man in the room first was, “What are you talking about? That the threats not there, it's not at that level yet”. But then they realized that for those women, if you're 250 pounds and the guy who's like pushing you in a dark room is shorter than you and smaller and you're a man and you don't have any contextual factors. Maybe you think of that as, well that's not much of a threat and I'm just yelling. But if you're a small woman and you're pushed into a space and you don't know what's happening and it's dark, and you think… I've got a few seconds to react before something terrible happens to me, and that's my only space to react, maybe I'm escalating faster here. And so one of my jobs in being a fly on the wall in all this was then to go back to Col McKenna on kind of the general trends that were happening, and I thought that was really important for the women in the room to start expressing how they would act so that their colleagues would know. You know, you want to know how the person next to you is going to react. But then also for the men who are well-meaning, who are at the table thinking, “Oh, is that what it's like? Is that how you would feel?” and putting themselves in the shoes of their sister Peacekeepers and thinking, Okay, that's a very different perspective that I don't naturally have.
Col McKenna: Yeah, I think it was... For me, it was really interesting to see the different perception of the subjectivity around hostile act hostile and intent depending on whom you were from a gender point.
Hannah Rosen: Yeah, I think it's definitely... I mean I’m sure many of our listeners, regardless of position within the CAF or just as a civilian, can definitely understand the difference in reactions that a woman might have in comparison to their colleagues or counterparts that might identify as men. And especially in the sense of when it comes to safety and security, and how we protect ourselves and how we deem security, and how we've deemed safety and how we set those standards for ourselves. In this situation, what does safety and security look like to me, in comparison, what does safety and security look like to you, and how do our personal backgrounds and the way that we identify actually impact the way that we see security both in our personal lives and in your case in theatre. And I think that's a really interesting point to bring into the conversation, especially around safety of women in peacekeeping operations or in operations in general. How do we ensure that those safety measures are validated and also protected in the sense of knowing that that's a reasonable response for the contextual situations that women have been placed in, within history.
Col McKenna: It's a very fair assessment. And for me, after my fifth mission and 27 years in the military, and I had never seen up until this point in my career, really disunity with respect to or subjectivity with respect to how one would interpret hostile acts, hostile intent, until we were placed in this much more complex and nuanced place in Mali, when the interpretation of that really had to be parsed and became something that was very differently perceived by men and women.
Nadia Blanchard: Awesome. In the sense of peace keeping with Canada and also you as individuals, the next question is going to be more about your personal experiences, and again, I'm going to ask this in French, but please feel free to use the language of your choice to answer it.
So here we go; Including women in decision making both for conflicts and in peacekeeping strengthens reconstruction and the creation of ties with the community. How were you personally involved in that kind of operational process that led to a positive result?
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: For me, there was a situation, and I’ll let Col McKenna talk about it, but why it was pretty important as a lawyer and a woman and the other countries contributing to MINUSMA, they didn’t have as many women as we did and we had a woman in our military police.
Col McKenna: Thank you Kat, so, yes, there was a situation under my command and every two, three months, there was market with locals, and some of them entered the well-guarded base and would sell things, carpets, merchandise, and one of the problems is that the other countries did not have military police that could search the women.
And you know I guess in the context of Mali in a predominantly Muslim country, there are certainly sensitivities with respect to men and women interacting in a public space. And so having Canada having the capability of having a female military police officer who could provide a search capability for our partners so that we could allow female merchants onto the base and not step across a boundary, cultural boundary that would have really offended someone from the local area, I think was a big tool. And I don't think it was by design, a little bit by luck, very likely, but the fact that we had someone we could use for this role was really transformational for our host, the German military who controlled access and security to that camp, and she provided a service and an opportunity that they didn't have organically, and so that I think was a bit of a win on our end.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: And me... I was very glad to see that and in my little ‘leg-ad’ circle, so legal advisors from other nations there, and we all kind of got together and incidentally, we had some power-house lawyers, most of whom happened to be women; two Dutch, the legal advisor to the United Nations who was a woman, the French legal advisor was a woman. So we had quite a contingency of us there, and one of the things that they would bring back from their meetings with their Commanders was how grateful they were that Canada had that, even that small capacity, because that is our face to the public, that we are there on the consent of the host Nation of Mali and are putting our foot forward and us helping the UN. So they as well, put their foot forward saying, “We will, your women coming to the market to sell, to support their families and their livelihood and to increase the relationship between the locals and the UN mission. Now, the face of it is they can go into a private space with a female peace keeper who will perform the search, and the feedback to me, just on the personal level was the lawyers were all grateful for that because it kind of helped protect their troops too. And so we all walked away feeling like this is one, it's a super small area, we understand that it's one person, but that one person needs a big difference to teach in the big picture.
Nadia Blanchard: I totally agree. We're seeing more and more examples of local women on the ground that are opening up more, opening up to uniform women because they feel more comfortable talking to them and they’re not intimidated, and this is a lot of information to be gathered on their situation and be helpful for the operation. So this is awesome, thanks.
Hannah Rosen: So we'll move on to our final question. So if you could implement one thing within your own team, so not the Defence Team, but you specifically the operations or units you work on, be it a policy program, service, etcetera, right now within the snap of your fingers, that would support the Women, Peace and Security agenda, what would it be and why?
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: I will start with kind of a non-answer saying that I don't have a team, I'm just part of the bigger team. But for me personally, I think we're doing all the right things, and that normalization effect that I talked about, I think is really important. None of the women there, I mean we all work really hard to be where we were, and none of us wanted to see ourselves as the token women, but within five minutes with working with this group, you could very quickly tell they were selected on merit and not on anything else. And so then that normalizes it for the group, so men see it and everybody sees it, including other women, and we start treating this as the new normal, and then it becomes a new normal. So I can't speak to the higher level policy or decision, but I'm relatively new to the military, I have a privileged position as being an officer and a legal advisor in a branch that probably has a lot more women than most branches, just by virtue of the fact that these are the people that are graduated from law school right now, there's a lot of strong performing women. And now we go into a world that is a peacekeeping world where we're still the minority, but people are seeing us, and first and foremost, it's Canadians and it's maybe our own families and ourselves, but it's also... we're interacting with all these other nations, maybe who have no experience with women in decision-making roles or advisory positions. We had a power house Chief of Staff who was a female, and she walked into these meetings, and I bet there were minds that were changed just by virtue of the fact that they listened to her, they took her wise counsel, they saw her acting, and I demystify the process for women, so every time... Yes, we don't want to be figure heads, but at the same time, every time a man can look up to a woman like our COS and say, “Yeah, okay, women belong in the room” or our sons and daughters look up and don't see gendered roles, I think that's what we need to be doing. And so where we're at right now with my eight, nine years in the military, that's what we need to keep doing.
Col McKenna: Maybe I'll answer from my side, thanks Kat. I think, so I guess I’d be remiss not saying that the equipment really matters, especially when your life is on the line and you were performing a duty, like we were... and we didn't really get into it, but the focus of our task force was really centered around forward aeromedical evacuation of wounded peacekeepers or civilians. And so again, sort of by the way that people were ready, we had about 50% of our clinicians initially who were female, and so these clinicians would fly in the back of Chinook to go and pick up somebody wounded, so it's critical care nurses acute care physicians or air medical technicians, paramedics. And they wore, you can imagine, body armour, hard plates and soft armour in addition to low carriage of all of their magazines and everything needed to fight if you needed to. And then layer on top of that an entire load of medical gear, tourniquets and bandages and drugs and saline, all that stuff they have to carry with them. And you can imagine this load becomes sort of ridiculous to manage for anyone, irrespective of man or woman. And so the baseline of the design of that armour and their load carriage equipment we have is really designed for men, even though smaller sizes aren't shaped correctly, and so there's a lot of tuning of your gear to make sure you can do your job of just hurting yourself on a day-to-day basis in 50 degree heat, under enormous amount of stress and trying to provide medical care in the back of a moving helicopter. So I guess my hat is off to our female clinicians who managed that load just the same as any one of their male counterparts, but also they're wearing it, and ergonomically it was not well designed for them, and for their size and the ergonomics of their frame, I just don't think it was really fair in that regard. I would say we had to go to theatre with the equipment we had, and now we are operationalizing this for future missions, we are definitely going to take a really hard look at the equipment that we give people so that in the execution other duties, they are not disadvantaged because it's designed for the other gender.
Hannah Rosen: Yeah, that really brings up the point of the conversation between equality and equity and what does it mean to ensure that women are smaller-framed individuals that are being deployed on missions, what does it mean to give them equal opportunity or to give them equitable opportunity. And equitable opportunity in this case where like you were saying, ensuring that equipment is ergonomic for their body and ensuring that they can perform the same tasks at the same rate or strengths as their counterparts, but without any physical discomfort or any increase chance of injury due to equipment not fitting correctly. And I was privileged enough last year to actually visit Base Borden for an exercise, and I got to put on a bomb suit. And that was so heavy, and I am like 5’2 at 140 pounds, and I truly almost fell over when I put this on. And so it gave me a respect for the equipment and that our deployed personnel wear. But on top of that, like you were saying, if you are in an additional role, you have all your fighting equipment and all that necessary combat equipment, and then on tap of that you might have medical equipment or what have you, and so I can definitely say that it could have fit my body better, so I can only imagine that it would need to fit our deployed personnel bodies’ better as well as.
Col McKenna: I just say it really came to light in our mission, I'm sure it's been a complaint, I know I've heard my wife discussed this, I suppose to discuss the kit that doesn't really fit really well. But I would say it really came to life for us just because of the preponderance of women we had in that clinical role and the very acutely operational nature of the clinical role in this particular mission set, where those who were in the greatest harm, where those clinicians and my aircrew, and the force protection element that was attached to them. So you really had this very closed subset of people who were taking on a disproportionate out of the risk, having to wear their equipment and operational way far more often than the rest of us, and it really came to the forefront in terms of... even just weights on someone's head with helmets and night vision goggles. It was a really eye-opening experience, and I think we can do better in that caveat.
Hannah Rosen: Exactly, and I think that kind of goes back to the beginning of our conversation of these things wouldn’t even have come up or been acknowledged or really understood at the same magnitude, if women were not just included in these roles as the CAF does so well at just really trying to increase the number of women deployed and on operations and missions. And I think before it would have just been maybe smaller men that really were pointing out the issues in their fit, but that would have been just like, “Well, you just need to be taller” kind of thing, instead of like, “Oh no, your body actually probably could use a different kit as well,” we all have different bodies and based on our kit, we could probably perform better if they fit us better. So I think that's a really, really great point to end, and I like to always end... Some of my favourite podcasts always end with a popcorn session, so it's usually just a quick last minute thought that you have in your mind that you'd like to mention, if you didn't get to mention it before, or if you had a running thought that you're like, “Oh, I wanted to say that I totally forgot,” this would be the time. So if you have any last minute, quick thoughts, this is your time. Either of you can take it away, I won’t kind of put the pressure on one of you or the other, so.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: So one of my takeaways from my time in Mali was, this was not an easy deployment, this was literally everything wanted to kill us. Mostly the weather and some weird bugs that I had never seen or heard of in my life, like blister beetles... It was not easy. We were quite isolated. It was exceptionally hot. There were a lot of restrictions on people, we were very close quarters. When we got there for this first couple of months, I was doing law on the back of a cocktail napkin, essentially, because we didn't have printers that really worked, I didn't have an office, so I was hand-writing things out or giving oral advice, and it was a challenging situation, and it was challenging for everybody, including obviously the women that were there. But one thing, when you're at as a mother as a woman, can you really do this... I don't know when we got it in our heads. I don't know why the question comes up, can women do tough things? Of course, women can do tough things, and there's... I think a famous quote about, if you want to know how strong a woman is, like a T-bag, put her in water, and then you'll see... I think putting women in Mali, it just shows what they're capable of. And obviously the situation, it calls for us stepping up, and we all did, but there was no sense that this was beyond our capacity simply because of gender and indeed, perhaps because of the examples that we've given you with respect to our MP as a woman and the rules of engagement training, the fact that we were women, and we were present and we formed part of the discussion, made things better, and we made Canada better, and we maybe even made the UN better. And so, yes, women can do it, and also inclusion, in my view, only serves to make us stronger, and it's not inclusion for the sake of inclusion, it really is operational efficiency, it just makes us better at what we do as CAF.
Col McKenna: That's great, from my point of view, I guess I would say as the Commander, I had two sorts of outcomes that I was really focused on, one was executing our mandate and an ethical way, safe way, and ensuring that the mission that we've been given, which was a 30-minute notice to move, medevac mandate to be able to rescue wounded peacekeepers and civilians and Mali, really difficult task at really difficult mission. But the execution of that in a safe repeatable way was hugely important to me, and we achieved that. And as a secondary outcome was allowing all of our team of peacekeepers to serve with dignity and Mali and achieve a really important operational effect for a mission that badly needed our help at the time. I would say we achieve those and we brought everyone home, and so we achieved those two things because of the decisions we collectively made as a task force and the quality of the decisions that we arrived that were informed by a more diverse group that I've ever served with. And I think that was really important, and I would look to the outcome of that mission where we had everyone came home who served, even though it was a very violent difficult place. And we had, I think excellent decisions made as a result of the voices in the room, many of whom were female.
Hannah Rosen: Great, thank you. Those were perfect ending notes. I loved those popcorn tidbits. So I think that concludes our podcast, sadly, I honestly probably have so many more questions that in the back of my head, I'm dying to ask, but in the essence of time, I should probably close it off. But I wanted to thank you again for taking the time to talk with us today and to share these thoughts with the Defence Team and civilians, and I just think that this is just such a unique opportunity, as I said when we've started, because how many chances do you get to talk to people who have been deployed and then further deployed on peacekeeping missions and... Yeah, I think I'm just very humbled, I guess, by this conversation, so thank you very much.
Lt Cdr Aubrey-Horvath: Thank you very much for having us.
Col McKenna: Thank you, Hannah.
Nadia Blanchard: Thank you.
Hannah Rosen: Thank you for listening today, and a reminder that this is only part two in a three-part series, hosted by the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Armed Forces, for the anniversary of UNSCR 1325.
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