Evidence of meeting #143 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was caf.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sandra Perron  Senior Partner, A New Dynamic Enterprise Inc., As an Individual
Natalie MacDonald  As an Individual
Laura Nash  As an Individual
Julie S. Lalonde  As an Individual

10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I want to have my five minutes, if that's possible.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You're not on the list of the members to speak. If you want to speak with Salma within your own group.... We'll continue with Rachael.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

I wasn't trying to interrupt. Sorry.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

It's all good. It's not a problem.

Go ahead, Rachael. Continue.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Ms. MacDonald, I was just wondering if you could tell us what those words were.

10 a.m.

As an Individual

Natalie MacDonald

Certainly. We held high hopes, Ms. Harder, after Prime Minister Trudeau declared that this was a really horrible situation for Laura. We were very, very hopeful that things were going to change.

Unfortunately, we didn't see anything, so I wrote in September 2017 following the segment on The National that we had both appeared in, to advise him that I wanted to refresh his memory as to Ms. Nash and what she had done. I asked specifically for his assistance in bringing the matter to a resolution, because we were stuck in limbo with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. We hadn't been able to get anywhere, as Ms. Nash and I have referenced. I needed some help. I needed someone to be able to do something, and I'd hoped that Prime Minister Trudeau would be that person. Unfortunately, we didn't hear back from him or his office.

10:05 a.m.

As an Individual

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Ms. Nash, I'll give you an opportunity. If there were one thing you wanted to leave this committee with going forward as we consider the treatment of women in the Canadian Armed Forces, what would you hope we would take away from your experience and having the opportunity to present today?

10:05 a.m.

As an Individual

Laura Nash

I'm concerned about the quotas—and Julie touched on it a little bit—that if we're just trying to increase the number of women in the military, there are still a lot of traps for them and a lot of really bad places they can go. If we can just get in there and change some of the policies.... I don't think it will be that difficult a task to change some of the things that could make it better for them.

I'm just concerned that we are setting women up to fail if they have babies and end up.... If their husband leaves them, if they have any other issues, or if they're sexually assaulted or anything like that.... Also, there should be a little more women-specific health care. I don't think that's really there yet either.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much.

We are going to turn it over to Emmanuella Lambropoulos.

Emmanuella, you have the floor.

May 14th, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Thank you to all of our witnesses for being here with us today.

Ms. Nash can correct me if I'm wrong as I have no experience in the military. I once saw a documentary that makes a lot of sense now that I hear you guys talking about the culture that exists in the military. Soldiers were talking in the documentary at their training camp about the main goal of what the military does to them while they're in training. You said that as the years go by, it probably gets progressively worse because third-year people were the worst behaved toward you.

I was wondering if anything that I had heard was true. Basically, they were saying that the main thing was to dehumanize someone in order to build them into a soldier and to make someone who can do things that they're not raised to do from a very young age. They're raised to have certain values and to have a moral compass and to act in a certain way. When they go into the military, they have to unlearn certain things in order to relearn how to be a soldier.

Do you think that process is what lends itself to this manly and masculine culture that exists? In what ways can we maintain effective training that would allow soldiers to be effective when they're out on the ground, while not adding to this discrimination against women, and not making it about being masculine, but about other things that would make them tough soldiers?

10:05 a.m.

As an Individual

Laura Nash

I think it's important to recognize that there are nearly 70,000 DND employees, if I'm not wrong, and only a few thousand are actually going to be snipers or special forces. There are literally tens of thousands of people in the military who are in support roles and work office jobs, just like so many other Canadians. I don't think that those Canadians need to be dehumanized for those specific roles. If someone wants to go and be special forces or wants to be a sniper, then maybe that would be a part of it.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

In your training, you didn't feel that you were taught to live life differently because you were in the navy or because you were doing training in whatever you were doing there?

10:05 a.m.

As an Individual

Laura Nash

Yes. I mean, we learned how to fold our clothes, pack our bags and take care of our stuff, which is different. As far as dehumanizing soldiers, we're not at war, so I think it's different. There are so many administrative roles that the training is office training.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuella Lambropoulos Liberal Saint-Laurent, QC

Why is such a tough environment needed? Why do you think that, as the years went on, people became more and more negative toward women? Can you comment on that?

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

Julie S. Lalonde

I think that the core of your question is really the nature of the military itself, frankly. I think that it does tie into high rates of people taking their own lives and high rates of trauma within the military. If you have to suppress how you feel because your masculinity and machismo is a key characteristic to help you succeed in the military, then that is conducive to men having high rates of trauma and not being able to address it, and also not being able to talk about the importance of care work for them and being parent, to speak to Sandra's point.

To me, what's important in the context of the RMC is that, in my experience, there were two sexual assaults and two suicides within a short period of time. RMC is a mess. I think it's embarrassing because it's a prestigious military institution that people leave with rank and a degree. It is a fancy place to go to school, so if we can't even get that in order, what does that say about the rest of the CAF, frankly?

You could argue that first-year students are just wild and are all pumped to be a part of the military. If it's a third-year student—which means they're about a year out from possibly leading troops—and they think it's appropriate to get up in a presentation and yell, “Why do you hate men so much? This is embarrassing. Why are you here? I shouldn't have to listen to this woman”, that tells you that the institution made you that way, or it fostered something that was already within you. Part of that is the idea of being super tough and being a fighter and a warrior.

Again, speaking to Laura's point, that's not what the military is in practice, so why are we recruiting people with this idea, as in the the commercials, that they're going to jump out of a helicopter and are going to.... That's not what most people are doing.

First of all, we're attracting people who are looking for something that they're not going to get, and then we're also fostering this idea of what it means to be a good member of the CAF—everything from morale-boosting exercises or obstacle courses and things—that is not reflective of what life is like in the military.

That needs to change if you want to recruit women, but what I also care more about is retaining women. If you want to hit a 21% ceiling, first of all, have a conversation with yourself because that ceiling is embarrassing. What other sector would we allow to have that low of a ceiling? Also, what's your retention plan? I don't think you have one because you really have this “add women and stir” approach.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent. Thank you very much.

We're going to turn it over to Christine Moore for our final question.

Christine.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

With recruits, we often see that a female recruit who may have chosen to be a cook is treated differently from another female recruit who may have chosen a combat career, in tanks, for example.

That is also perpetuated inside the unit. When you have chosen a combat career where you are almost the only woman, there’s a lot of pressure. In the beginning, those women want to show that they have the ability, but, after a certain amount of time, they give up and go to work with the quartermaster. Often, they realize that they will never able to get into the courses to become master corporals and that they will always be stuck in the rank of corporal. Certainly, that’s my perception from my experience in the forces.

In your opinion, has that changed? Have women who choose non-traditional careers seen any change of culture in the army, or is there still a problem in the Canadian Forces? Although, on paper, women are allowed to be in the combat trades and in the more difficult trades, the fact remains that, culturally, after a certain time, you realize that it’s simply impossible and you’re just being masochistic in wanting to continue along those lines.

10:10 a.m.

Senior Partner, A New Dynamic Enterprise Inc., As an Individual

Sandra Perron

Perhaps I can answer that.

Combat trades are difficult, with a lot of physical, emotional, moral and intellectual challenges. It is wrong to say that they want soldiers who are not good human beings. But we cannot be deployed with a child at our side. They are operational trades.

The culture is changing. With combat trades, it has to be understood that we have the trade, and then there are times in life when we have obligations and other priorities. So the combat trades should be more flexible, and adjust to families, single parent families or people taking care of their aging parents. They have to adjust more than the other trades because their soldiers are deployed.

This is coming from someone who was in Bosnia and Croatia. I did two tours with the United Nations and I can tell you that our best soldiers are the ones that are better human beings and who adjusted to it. They also make better leaders.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Excellent.

On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank Sandra, Laura, Natalie and Julie for coming and providing their expertise today.

I thank you for all of your stories. Thanks for sharing them with us.

We will be adjourning, but we will be meeting once again at 3:30. We'll be at 425 Wellington for our next set of panels.

The meeting is adjourned.