Women in the Canadian Military

6 The Cold War & Peacekeeping The second half of the 20th century may not have seen as many large-scale conflicts as the first half, but the long-running Cold War and Peacekeeping missions kept the Canadian Forces busy. The Cold War refers to the period between the end of the Second World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, during which the world was largely divided into two ideological camps — the United States-led democratic “West” and the Soviet-dominated communist “East.” Each side was deeply suspicious of the other’s motives. In some places, like Korea, the Cold War did turn “hot,” and Canadian soldiers were called upon to help their allies in the southern half of the peninsula. While many countries did try to remain neutral (often referred to as Non-Allied or Third World countries), the years from the late 1940s on were characterized by tension and the constant threat that the world could devolve into nuclear war. Learn more about the complicated geopolitical circumstances that led to the drawn-out conflict with the Canada and the Cold War article on The Canadian Encyclopedia. Near the start of the Cold War, in 1951, the reserve elements of all three Canadian military services began to recruit women, as did the regular air force. In 1954–55, the regular army and navy also began to recruit women. In the following decades, there was a growing effort to have the Canadian Forces mirror society, where women were increasingly part of the paid labour force. Political influences, such as the 1971 Royal Commission on the Status of Women and the Canadian Human Rights Commission ruling of 1989, combined with the realization that women were highly effective in non-traditional roles, removed the barriers to full and equal service by women in the Canadian Forces. One of the avenues that opened for women around this time was peacekeeping, which is the term applied to United Nations military operations in countries affected by conflict. Peacekeepers work to maintain peace and security, protect human rights, and help restore the rule of law. In 1956, Lester B. Pearson, then Canada’s Minister of External Affairs, placed Canada in a leadership role with the United Nations during the Suez Crisis. As a result of Pearson’s leadership in the Crisis and Canada’s role in the UN Emergency Force he helped create, many Canadians consider peacekeeping part of the country’s identity. Peacekeeping would become a key part of Canada’s military portfolio. As a class, watch the video testimony of Master Corporal (retired) Francine Paquette (English subtitles available). Answer the following questions: • What enemies are mentioned? How do you know who an enemy is? What kind of engagement did she have with the enemy? • The Cold War involved the constant threat of nuclear war. How did the experience of being constantly under threat during that time affect Francine’s transition to civilian life? As a class, have a discussion and create a chart with similarities and differences between soldiers serving in a “hot” war compared with those serving in the Cold War. ACTIVITY #7 REPERCUSSIONS OF THE COLD WAR 1. As a class, watch Record of Service: Cold War and Record of Service: Peace Operations and take notes about the conflicts. 2. Divide the class into two groups. Each group will watch one Memory Project video: Record of Service: Major (retired) Sandra Perron (English subtitles available), or Submarine Hunters: Canada and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and focus on the testimony of Able Wren (retired) Gwen Settle. Each group will watch the assigned interview and take point-form notes about the following: • What were the goals of the mission the interviewee served in? • Were the above goals achieved? How, or why not? • What motivated the interviewee to serve? • What challenges did the interviewee face overseas? What was most rewarding for them? • Highlight any other details that seem important. 3. Split from your group into pairs. Each partner should have watched a different video. Share what you learned from the interview you watched with your partner. Discuss your findings with your partner, comparing what you learned from the interview and what information you found most important to share. What similarities exist between the stories? What obstacles or challenges are common to the women? What do their experiences reveal about how women were treated in the Forces at the time? MODIFICATION Watch one of the above interviews. Create a T-chart, and on one side list positive experiences that the service woman had, and on the other list challenges that the service woman faced. ACTIVITY #6 WOMEN IN THE COLD WAR ERA Still from Record of Service: Master Corporal (retired) Francine Paquette (Historica Canada). Still from Record of Service: Peace Operations (Historica Canada). Still from Record of Service: Cold War (Historica Canada).