Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

Canada is a world leader in both the proportion of women in its military and the areas in which they can serve.

Women have been serving in Canada’s military for over a century and today play a pivotal role in defending Canada’s safety and security. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was one of the first military forces to allow women to serve in all occupations, and today is setting ambitious goals to increase representation across all trades and ranks. Our objective is that by 2026, 1 in 4 CAF members will be women.

Find out more about past, present and future state of women in the CAF by selecting one of the options below.


Women in the Canadian Military - A Generational Success 

Transcript

Canada is a country where there are no barriers to employment of women in the military.

Attitudes and laws restricted women’s opportunities in uniform - not anymore: thousands of them serve Canada with pride today.

While society’s attitudes towards women in the military have grown more accepting, and changes in the law have driven the opening of all occupations in the Canadian Armed Forces, it is the individual women who blazed a trail with their determination to seize those opportunities, and the collective hard work and success of all women that has brought us to this moment.

Recent accomplishments have included, a Lieutenant-General as Commandant of the NATO College in Rome, a combat arms officer leading combat operations in Afghanistan, a Captain of a frigate, a Commodore Judge Advocate General and Commander of a Joint Task Force on operations overseas.

All are a testament not only of the individual’s skill and dedication to serve in the military, and excel, but of every woman in uniform.

None of this would have been possible had the military not opened the doors of the Royal Military College of Canada and

Allowed women to fly jets…

To serve aboard ships…

To become a Snowbird or a Skyhawk

And to Command the Queen’s Guard.

The path to these successes has taken over a century.‎

Women first served in nursing roles during the North-West Rebellion, the South African War, and the First World War.

30,000 women worked on the home front in factories producing weapons and ammunition, on family farms, or performed clerical work in offices.

For the time it was an acceptable way for women to contribute to the war effort.

When the Second World War broke out, 55,000 women answered the call.

Some served with the British Air Transport Auxiliary, ferrying fighters and bombers from factories to air fields.

Nursing Sister Margaret Brooke was awarded the Order of the British Empire for Gallantry, an Arctic Patrol Ship was named after her.

As serving members we owe much to those who, following the war, believed that women should have the same opportunities as men to serve their country.

Those advocates included:

  • Colonel and Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Women’s Army Medical Corps;
  • Director and Commander of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service;
  • And Commander of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps

Integration and acceptance of women within the military increased exponentially after 1967.

Programs such as Service Women in Non Traditional Roles provided greater opportunities for women to serve in any occupation and to advance based on their performance and potential and not on their gender.

In the 70s, women constituted 1.5 percent of the Forces. Today, it has grown past 15 percent.

We recognize the importance of a military that reflects the diversity of Canada, a country where over 50 percent of the population are women.

Women continue to make their mark in the military. Not because they are women, but because they are members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

We value the contribution that women have made as serving members, but also as veterans to Canada.

All Canadians can take pride in the accomplishments of the women who have served, are serving and will serve in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Are you ready to be part of the success of women in the Canadian Armed Forces?


Did you know?

 

A Nursing Sister sitting with a group of soldiers.

 

1885

Women served for the first time in Canadian military history as nurses in the field to provide care to the Canadian troops in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Their tour of duty lasted 4 weeks. A total of 12 nursing sisters were awarded the Campaign medal for service in the North-West in 1885.

Women in military dress saluting.

 

1939-1945

The Second World War saw the creation of 3 women’s divisions in the CAF: the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division, the Canadian Women’s Army Corps, and the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service. Some 50,000 women enlisted to work as clerks, cooks, mechanics, parachute riggers, and heavy mobile equipment drivers.

Commodore Geneviève Bernatchez delivering a speech.

 

Today

By the end of 2017, there were 12 women at the general and flag officer ranks in the CAF, a record high with 4 in each service. The number of women in senior non-commissioned member ranks also rose to 57 chief warrant officers and chief petty officers 1st class, as did the number of women in Special Forces roles.


Featured CAF stories

From a Cessna 172 with Dad to a Snowbird CT-114 Tutor

"The first plane I flew was a Cessna 172 and I was so short that I was sitting on my dad’s lap, and basically I was just going up and down. That’s all I did. Both my parents were pilots, just as a hobby. It was a very passion that they had and they totally transmitted that to me from an early age."

 

 


Featured article

New commander takes over Canada’s Formation Europe

 

Four high-ranking officers standing next to each other.

At a ceremony at NATO’s operational headquarters in Belgium on September 7, Brigadier-General Darlene Quinn assumed command of Canada’s Formation Europe – an appointment that includes the accompanying duty of National Military Representative to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

The ceremony was presided by the Deputy Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Major-General Frances Allen, and attended by Canadian officers employed in key NATO leadership roles, including Lieutenant-General Chris Whitecross, Commandant NATO Defense College – Rome, and Rear-Admiral Darren Hawco, Canadian Representative to the Military Committee – NATO HQ Brussels...

 

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