MEDIA RELEASE: Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada welcomes the appointment of Canada’s first Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security

Ottawa, June 12, 2019


The Women, Peace & Security Network-Canada applauds the Government of Canada’s appointment today of Jacqueline O’Neill as Canada’s first-ever Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security.

Ms. O’Neill will serve as a point person on Canada’s efforts to advance a robust national strategy on women, peace and security, providing advice and “confidential assessments” to the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and working closely with civil society and other organizations engaged in Canada and globally on these issues. 

“We have called for a high-level women, peace and security champion for many years,” said Beth Woroniuk, Coordinator, Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada. “We are very happy to see such a distinguished and committed individual take up the new post of Canada’s Women, Peace and Security Ambassador. Ms. O’Neill brings the experience and vision to lead Canada’s ambitious agenda.  We look forward to working with her.” 

Canada is one of 79 countries with a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, mandated by UN Security Council resolution 1325 (2000).  Canada’s current national action plan was launched by Minister Chrystia Freeland in 2017and expires in 2022.

The National Action Plan outlines Canada’s commitment to increase the meaningful participation of women in conflict prevention and resolution, uproot sexual and gender-based violence in conflict zones, protect the rights of women and girls’ rights in fragile contexts and uphold their rights to sexual and reproductive health. 

Canada has also committed to advance the WPS agenda in its peace operations, including deploying more women and fully embedding the WPS agenda into Canadian Armed Forces operations and police deployments.

“Ms. O’Neill’s appointment comes at a time when conflicts are intensifying globally, with specific and devastating effects on women’s lives,” said Liz Bernstein, Executive Director, Nobel Women’s Initiative. “Her leadership and deep expertise with women’s movements globally will be an invaluable asset in shaping Canada’s feminist foreign policy”.  

Lead partners for the Action Plan are Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Supporting partners are Public Safety Canada (PS), Status of Women Canada (SWC), Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Department of Justice.   

A global leader on women, peace and security, Jacqueline O’Neill is the former President of the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Inclusive Security and has over 15 years of expertise working with government and civil society. She has supported the creation of national strategies for over 30 countries, as well as NATO, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the United Nations. Through her work, Ms. O’Neill has collaborated directly with coalitions of women peacebuilders in Colombia, South Sudan, Sudan, Pakistan, and South Korea among other countries.

Her appointment demonstrates Canada’s firm commitment to the women, peace and security agenda.  It comes at a critical time globally, with women seeking representation in peace processes in Syria, Yemen and other conflict countries.  The Women Peace and Security Network- Canada welcomes the appointment of Ms. O’Neill and looks forward to working with her.

Member Spotlight: Jennifer Savidge

To mark International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the individual members of our Network and the work that they do. Today: Jennifer Savidge

by Clarissa Leir-Taha, MA Candidate (NPSIA) and intern with The WPS Group

With a background in security and international development, Jennifer Savidge brings a wealth of knowledge to the WPS Network. She is a gender specialist in the fields of international development and security, with experience implementing programming across a range of sectors at the grassroots and institutional level. 

Jennifer’s interest in WPS-related issues developed during her time spent completing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at McGill University and a Master of Applied Communications at Royal Roads University. Joining the naval reserve in high school, she became a member of the Canadian navy and served in a range of roles. Her overseas deployments included serving as part of NATO’s stabilization force in Bosnia and Herzegovina and participating in counter-terrorism operations in the Mediterranean Sea and counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

In 2016, Jennifer was appointed as a gender advisor with the Canadian Armed Forces, one of the first such advisory roles to exist within the CAF. Through her work as a gender advisor, she was introduced to the WPSN-C and became a member upon her release from the CAF.

From her diverse experiences, Jennifer says she has learned the importance of imparting the human rights aspects of gender when addressing gender-related issues within organizations, and that the approach needs to be context-specific. She notes that a careful balance needs to be struck between focusing on human rights and operational effectiveness in the peace and security fields in particular.

Jennifer is also an author. Published in 2013, her creative non-fiction book Hostile Seas details her experiences aboard a Canadian naval vessel tasked with escorting merchant ships off the coast of Somalia while under the threat of piracy.

Member Spotlight: Mary Scott

To mark International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the individual members of our Network and the work that they do.  Today:  Mary Scott

by Olivia Adams, MA Candidate (NPSIA) and intern with The WPS Group. 

Mary Scott has always been involved in gender issues and women’s rights. As a resident of Winnipeg, she worked at the Manitoba office for Human Resources Development Canada, seeing first hand the needs of the community. At HRDC, she managed the Manitoba Stay in School program, which focused on youth drop-out rates, especially indigenous youth; she developed a Women Returning to Work program, centered around the skills women needed to re-enter the workforce; and finally, she put on a program called Alice in Cyberland, which provided workshops for women about the internet and computers, an important initiative in 1980s Manitoba.

Still, it wasn’t until the year of her retirement that she became interested in the global women’s movement. In 1995, Mary attended the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing as an official delegate. At the conference, she began to see the importance of women’s activism and of women’s involvement in peace negotiations. She tells the story of the famous UN conference “peace tent,” where women came together from different perspectives to respectfully share dialogue on issues such as reproductive health. She came away from this conference with a deeper understanding of the global effects of gender inequality around the world, and of what women were doing to make a difference. 

With this new perspective, Mary started a local chapter of UNIFEM in Winnipeg, which eventually became UN Women. When the national committee decided against having local chapters of UN Women, she and Senator Marilou McPhedran created the Institute for International Women’s Rights-Manitoba. Founded in 2013, the organization focuses on supporting women’s equality and women’s rights both locally and globally. It also holds Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. Their current project is supporting a delegation of 31 students and adults, including indigenous leadership, from Manitoba and Treaty 3 area to the meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women in early March, including a panel presentation: Youth Speak Out: Canada’s Social Protection Systems, which aims to share the stories of a diverse group of young women and their experiences within current protection systems. “It’s always so hard to change policy,” she says. “It’s difficult to make those changes but with Youth Voices, you start to see that maybe things can change. Things never change just because people think it should change, it changes because of the community and the actions of the community.”

Mary has been a member of the WPSN-C since its beginning in 2012. “The Network means a great deal, because I hear from the amazing group of women, many part of international organizations, that are committed to supporting and improving the lives of women who are caught up in violent situations of war and conflict, yet seeking peaceful resolution. I admire their work, and want to carry their message to the community I am part of, here in Manitoba and Treaty 1 territory.  There are also many from the Diaspora of war torn countries that may have something to contribute to the discussion of how to build a peaceful world, one where women’s human rights are respected.”

If she could share one piece of advice for others working or wanting to work in the field of gender equality and women’s rights it’s to “Be persistent. Respect and care for others. It’s important to work together and support each other.” 

“I do this not for myself but for other women and their families, because that’s where change has to happen.”

Member Spotlight: Victoria Tait

To mark International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the individual members of our Network and the work that they do. Today:  Victoria Tait

by Clarissa Leir-Taha, MA Candidate (NPSIA) and intern with The WPS Group

Victoria Tait is an accomplished academic in the field of women, peace and security. Victoria completed both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Queen’s University in Political Science. Despite always having an interest in women’s studies, gender issues and warfare, it was not until reaching a graduate level that she became involved in feminist security studies as a distinct area of research. During her Master’s degree, her supervisor was completing project work on asymmetric engagement in modern warfare, a project to which Victoria saw an opportunity to apply a feminist perspective for her thesis. After beginning interviews with female-identified soldiers, she found the subject fascinating and has stuck with the WPS subject area ever since.

As a current Ph.D. candidate at Carleton University, Victoria’s dissertation encompasses studying how international feminist norms are interpreted and communicated to domestic militaries. On a Canadian level, she is specifically researching how the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 has been understood by various elements of the Canadian security apparatus and how that understanding has been communicated to and responded to by Canadian soldiers. Her research has pointed to the continued exclusion of women from military roles, a limiting factor for women to participate in what is considered an “essential” citizenship activity in many democratic countries.

Upon completing her Ph.D., Victoria says she hopes to stay within the field of women, peace and security, whether within an academic, governmental or private consultation position. She notes that her main goal is to work to help women enter into key decision making positions in the security sector. After spending time researching and working on women, peace and security, Victoria says that work still needs to be done within the field itself in order to reach full potential for meaningful conversation. This includes: growing the relationship between feminist scholars and building a strengthened cross-institutional support network. She is currently working on a collaborative project with Dr. Maya Eichler and Walter Callaghan on the gendered experiences of Canadian veteran transition from military to civilian life. 

Read Victoria’s recent publication:

“Boots on the Ground: Militarized Masculinity From the Soldiers’ Perspectives”

Victoria also has a chapter in a forthcoming book:

Tait, Victoria. “Gender Stereotyping in the Canadian Combat Arms.” Book Chapter, Justin Wright & Felix Fonseca Eds. Making Sense of Diversity in the Profession of Arms. Canadian Defence Academy Press. 20pp. (forthcoming)

Member Spotlight: Carole Doucet

To mark International Women’s Day, we are profiling some of the individual members of our Network and the work that they do.  Today:  Carole Doucet

By Olivia Adams, MA Candidate (NPSIA) and intern with The WPS Group.

Carole Doucet has been working in the field of women’s rights and gender equality for over 20 years. She has had a plethora of experiences, including being an international policy advisor, strategic manager, researcher, trainer, and advocate specializing in women’s rights, gender, peace and security issues. She has advised both governments (especially in Africa) and international organizations, including but not limited to UN Women, NATO, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the UN Department of Political Affairs, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre, and multiple civil society and women’s organizations.

While her work initially started in developing countries, she has recently been working in post conflict countries supporting the implementation of the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Carole has served as the senior gender advisor for the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Liberia (2008-2011), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York (2013-2015), and the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region (2016-2017). She has most recently finished a consultancy for NATO, helping the Alliance work on their WPS action plan and their performance indicators. Carole has recently taken on the position of Director of the Conduct and Discipline Team with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or MONUSCO. Based in Goma, Carole’s mandate will be to advise senior leadership on the application of UN standards of conduct in the Mission including the Zero Tolerance Policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.

For Carole, working in the field of women, peace and security is “always interesting and motivating. You learn every day and hopefully you provide effective support and guidance  as well as insights and information to people who are also trying to advance this same agenda.” 

Discrimination and gender-based inequalities are, in her words, “everyone’s business, as everyone in a community and in a country, including their well-being, prosperity, peace and security is affected by this – that’s why it’s important to consistently work on these issues.” 

She’s learned a lot from women’s rights defenders and activists around the world and their courage. They have different approaches, new ways of seeing things, and effective designs. She is consistently humbled by this, and hopes to continue learning from other inspiring women (and men) in the field.