Building Bridges: Dialogue with the Department of National Defence & the Canadian Armed Forces

by JO Rodrigues, Steering Committee


On October 18th the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada (WPSN-C), the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) met to build more understanding and strengthen dialogue.

Meeting for two hours, attendees shared information on how they are working to move the WPS agenda forward and identified the next step for future dialogue. This session focused on operational issues (with recruitment/retention/diversity reserved for another session).

In attendance were CAF Gender Advisors, DND/CAF staff with responsibility for the integration of gender perspectives, and members of the Network.

Highlights from the session included:

Background on roles and functions

We were provided with information of the specific roles and functions of CAF and the DND as well as the how they conduct military operations regionally and internationally.


DND/CAF shared some of their successes since January 2016. These include:

  • The Chief of Defence Staff’s (CDS) directive.
  • The success in applying GBA+ in recent national emergencies including addressing the flooding in Québec & fires in British Columbia.
  • Naming Major General Tammy Harris as Champion for GBA+ and WPS issues. Although MGen Harris will soon retire, the CDS will name her successor at the Vancouver Ministerial meeting.
  • Hiring a civilian Director Integration of Gender Perspectives for both the CAF.
  • Gender Advisors have been appointed at the Strategic level and at the operational level both in Canadian Joint Operations Command and the Special Forces Operational Command.
  • Naming and training gender advisors (GENADs) and gender focal points. Since Dec 2016, all named missions have GFP and one mission currently has a GENAD. Internally, GFPs are spread from the strategic to the tactical level.
  • Hosting the Five Eyes Plus Gender Conference this past May in Ottawa. The topic of discussion was on the integration of gender in operations including the sharing of best practices and lessons learned. In total 10 countries were in attendance as well as representatives from NATO and the United Nations.

Building Capacity

All personnel are required to take online Status of Women GBA+ course. CAF staff noted that there is increasing demand for a GBA+ course tailored to a military context. The CAF and DND are currently working on this in addition to improving training on WPS issues.


The DND and CAF are balancing enthusiasm with having realistic expectations. While they have a baseline, targets and indicators for their implementation of C-NAP, they view it as an ever-green document. They expect that targets and indicators will need to be adjusted from year to year to successfully achieve effectiveness in addressing WPS issues. The DND/CAF activities in the C-NAP are organized around the following themes: Governance, training and education, accountability, recruitment and retention and Integration in to Operations. Each theme has specific targets that will be measured and reported on an annual basis.

The CAF are also working toward increasing the percentage of women in the military by 25% by 2026.

When asked what overall success looks like, there was agreement that it would be the ability for the DND & CAF to ensure the application of gender perspective become a routine and common element of CAF activities. A key success factor is leadership who understand WPS issues, can bring awareness to them and follow-through on commitments.

Next Steps

The meeting was informative with time for questions and answers. It was a promising start to meaningful dialogue between the Network, the DND and the CAF.

Next steps include determining future meeting dates covering different themes.

Thanks to the organizers of this event. On the CAF/DND side: Sheila Ouellet, LCol. Marie-Eve Begin and LCol. Darrel Zientek. On the WPSN-C side: Beth Woroniuk, Karen Breeck, and Kristine St. Pierre.

JO Rodrigues is a member of the Steering Committee for the WPSN-C, a consultant for WPS as well as trainer and coach for humanitarian aid and international development workers.

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