In celebration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, the Department of National Defense in Ottawa hosted two screenings of Sisters in Arms. I was honored to be invited to share the film with this audience. At the same time, I was quite nervous about how it would be received, by the Canadian Forces women, in particular.
I was up early, filled with the excitement (and trepidation) for the day. I stepped into the frigid winter morning and had a short walk over to the looming DND building. As I walked in the door I was greeted by my smiling and enthusiastic hosts and the day was off to a good start that never stopped.
Over 200 women and men came out to see Sisters in Arms. The screenings were followed by lively Q & A discussions with a panel including myself, Retired Lt Col Shirley Robinson – co founder of the Association for Women’s Equity in the Canadian Forces who played a key roll in getting all military trades open to women, and Lt Col Anne Reiffenstein – the first to woman to graduate as an artillery officer in the Canadian Military. The audience was so engaged and their questions and responses so enthusiastic, I sensed that the film struck a cord.
We talked about the changes since the momentous decision by the Human Rights Tribunal in 1989 to open all trades to women; mentorship and gender integration; the current challenges facing women soldiers; and even the taboo subject of sexual harassment; all from very personal perspectives. It seemed anything was open to discussion. And, for a while, we were in that comforting and inspired place that women go when they connect.
I hope this film and the discussions it generates will support and encourage the people it profiles and continues to inspire dialogue both inside and outside of military circles.
Special thanks to my hosts Cpt. Kristy Mathisen, Lt. Carol Desrosiers and the fabulous MC MWO Roberge for making this such a great event