Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War

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November 10, 2022 Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War
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November 10, 2022

The Empire Club of Canada Presents

Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War

Chairman: Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada

Distinguished Guest Speakers
Dr. Wendy M. Cecil, CM, HCapt(N), Chancellor Emerita, Victoria University of Toronto
Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier, Historian, War and Society, Canadian War Museum
Hari Panday, Honourary Colonel, Thirty-Two Service Battalion & Board Member, Meridian Credit Union, Meridian Credit Union

Head Table Guests
Jehan Karsan, Executive Director, Empire Club of Canada, Staff

It is a great honour for me to be here at the Empire Club of Canada today, which is arguably the most famous and historically relevant speaker’s podium to have ever existed in Canada. It has offered its podium to such international luminaries as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Audrey Hepburn, the Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, and closer to home, from Pierre Trudeau to Justin Trudeau; literally generations of our great nation's leaders, alongside with those of the world's top international diplomats, heads of state, and business and thought leaders.

It is a real honour and distinct privilege to be invited to speak to the Empire Club of Canada, which has been welcoming international diplomats, leaders in business, and in science, and in politics. When they stand at that podium, they speak not only to the entire country, but they can speak to the entire world.

Welcome Address by Sal Rabbani, President, Board of Directors, Empire Club of Canada
Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Welcome to the 119th season of the Empire Club of Canada. I'm delighted to be here with you and our esteemed speakers today. Thank you for your participation and support. This incredible community of colleagues and peers is the driving force behind our mandate to engage, debate, educate, and advance the dialogue on issues of importance to Canadians. Welcome. My name is Sal Rabbani, and I'm the President of the Board of Directors of the Empire Club of Canada.

To formally begin this afternoon, I want to acknowledge that we are gathering today on the traditional and treaty lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the homelands of the Anishinaabe, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wyandot Peoples. We encourage you to learn more about the lands on which you work and live.The diversity of Canada's population is one that's reflected in its military service. At this time, let us not forget to recognize experiences and histories that are often unlike those that are usually discussed. Members of the military from marginalized communities were not insulated from the discrimination and prejudice they've faced throughout history. This is an opportunity to remember that the intersection of our identities, and the different communities we belong to, the influences, the experiences we have. This past Tuesday marked Indigenous Veterans Day, and many participated in ceremonies to mark the significant contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Métis veterans in service for Canada. Tomorrow, we will participate in the National Moment of Remembrance to take pause, and observe two minutes of silence, honouring the fallen, and recognizing the sacrifices of all servicemen and women for Canadian values.

Today, we're honoured to offer our platform to our speakers to voice the extraordinary stories of Canadian women in war. A chapter of our history that is far too long, and either unknown, or misunderstood by the vast majority of Canadians. And today's honorary Remembrance Day presentation is in partnership with the Empire Club Foundation. It is being streamed in several schools, thanks to the work of the foundation and its president, Dr. Gordon McIvor. Many of the resources provided and additional support, making this event a success, is thanks to the following: David Bates and SLP Commemorative Group; Norm Christie, author and historian; Gilbert Reid, writer and broadcaster; Peter Williamson, television producer, Founding Director, King and Empire Foundation; and Elizabeth Wilson, program consultant.

The Empire Club of Canada is a not-for-profit organization, and I want to recognize our sponsors, who generously support the club and make these events possible and complimentary for our online viewers to attend. Thank you to our lead event sponsor, Meridian Credit Union; thank you to our supporting sponsor, the Jackman Foundation; thank you also to our season sponsor, Bruce Power.

If you require technical assistance, please start a conversation with our team using the chat button on the right-hand side of your screen. We invite questions from the audience by accessing the Q&A function under the video player. It is now my pleasure to invite Dr. Wendy Cecil, Chancellor Emerita, Victoria University of Toronto; and Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier, historian, War and Society, Canadian War Museum, for today's "Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War." Wendy and Melanie, welcome.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier, Historian, War and Society, Canadian War Museum
Thank you.

Opening Remarks by Dr. Wendy M. Cecil, CM, HCapt(N), Chancellor Emerita, Victoria University of Toronto
Thank you very much, Sal. I appreciate the introduction. And I have to say that for Melanie, and for me, this is a real honour to be addressing the Empire Club. I know that we're talking to people of all ages who have tuned in today. This is a very special event near and dear to our hearts, both of us, for various reasons and many reasons. And I'm especially happy that we have 20 schools registered to hear this talk. That's very important. Nothing can be more important than ensuring that our young people are really being brought into understanding of Remembrance Day and of the history of the wars. This is, as you mentioned, particularly important when it comes to women. Because, so often, we think of the men who served and died and were wounded and forever changed in the wars and in service. But there were women as well. And Melanie has, as her area of research, been able to come up with some truly inspiring stories of these women. And I guess, one of the first questions is, why do we remember? Well, we remember because, as a country, we need to remember all people and all the histories. That's what gives our country dynamism and a very strong future.

So, I'm going to ask everybody who's tuned in—but especially the young people—to use their imaginations in this presentation, as Melanie tells you the stories. I'd like you to remember that many of the people that Melanie is going to tell you about were your ages—I'm speaking to the students here—your age, or maybe slightly older. So, put yourself in those shoes, and imagine how you would feel when you hear what they were going through, and what they were doing. Society was very different then, but human emotions generally remain the same. The difference in society then—and it's, I won't say there are no barriers to women now, but they were much greater then. And you will hear what some of them were like. But these women wanted to serve, and they found a way to do it.

We're going to do this in chronological order. So, Melanie will first talk about women in the First World War—some of them in service, some at home—and then we will move on to the Second World War. So, Melanie, why don't you start us off with the First World War, and your first story?

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. So, as you mentioned, I will start with the women at home. We have to remember that when the war started, Canada was a small country, about 8 million. And over 620,000 men, and a little bit over 2000 women served overseas during the conflict. So, almost every woman, girl, and boy at home had a loved one in uniform, a son, a father, a brother, a sister. So, these women experienced constant stress, constant worry and anxiety. And the Canadian War Museum holds in its collection, a collection that really features some of these women, and express how this worry and this anxiety illustrate that well.

So, for example, we can see first slide that presents Private William Antliff. And the War Museum has in its collection the letter that Antliff and his mom exchanged. His mom was Ruth Antliff. They were from, they lived in Montréal, and Private Antliff was just 20 at the time. And these letters are so poignant, and they express feeling that we can imagine were experienced by thousands of mothers at the time. For one thing, Ruth Antliff says that she feels so helpless that her son is so far away and in great danger. But her letter also shows that, like so many women in Canada at the time, she herself was also very involved in the war. She was doing patriotic work, she was taking part in fundraisers for soldiers, she was knitting socks and clothes, she was sending comforts and treats to her son and to soldiers overseas. So, these letters are very rare, because we don't often have the women's side of them. We often have the soldiers' letter, but many mothers thought that their letters were useless, unfortunately, and they got rid of them. So, we're so grateful that, actually, Private Antliff was the one who insisted on her keeping her letters. So, as an historian, I'm very happy that he did that over a hundred years ago.

So, just like Ruth Antliff, many women on the front had to adapt their day-to-day lives to the condition of the war, some of them by volunteering, others by working in war industries. But also, for over about 2800 Nursing Sisters, by serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. Because, during the First World War, "Nursing Sisters," as it was called at the time, was the only position available to women in the Canadian Army. And on this subject, we're very fortunate today to have a wonderful clip that we were we are going to watch, which images from the war, and explains the important role of the Canadian Nursing Sisters during the war, but also that they were doing pretty dangerous work.


Hospital cemeteries are very different from the others. And in some ways, the beauty of these cemeteries disguises the true suffering that a lot of these men went through before they died. They may have languished weeks from their wounds before finally passing. Some of these new patients have dreadful wounds. One young boy with part of his face shot away, both arms gone, and great wounds in both legs. Surely death were merciful. These are the horrors of war. But they are too horrible. Our boy is only 20 years old.

The range and severity of wounds in the Great War are appalling. A soldier in the frontline could be sniped, he could be gassed, he could be hit by a piece of shell, a trench mortar. And once he was wounded, he was dependent on the medical staff to get him out. He would be taken from the front by field ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Stations, and that's where the triage took place. And if he was going to survive, he would get on a hospital train and be brought to the Channel coast. And here, he would get great medical treatment from the doctors and the Nursing Sisters.

There were what we call dirty cases, where infection had set in, owing to the men laying for hours in muddy trenches before being picked up by stretcher bearers. By the time they reach the hospitals following an amputation at the Casualty Clearing Station, gas gangrene had developed. Now gas gangrene carries the most horrible smell anyone could imagine. It was in the air; it saturated our hair and clothes. Once having smelled gas gangrene, one could never forget it.

During the Great War, German aircraft bombed Allied hospitals on several occasions. On May 19th, 1918, in the evening, 15 German bombers came over Étaples and dropped more than 100 bombs. And most of them landed right on the No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, and in particular, the nurses' barracks. Sixty-six Canadian medical personnel were killed outright or died of wounds

We had a terrible air raid from p.m. to a.m. Miss MacDonald was killed. She had a small wound, but it must have severed the femoral artery, as she died of her haemorrhage almost immediately.

Nursing Sister Katherine MacDonald, Canadian Army Nursing Service. She was killed in action May 19th, 1918. And her inscription reads, "killed in action, beloved daughter of Angus and Mary Maude MacDonald, Brantford, Canada.

Miss Lowe died this a.m. She had a fractured skull, was unconscious towards the last.

This is Nursing Sister Margaret Lowe, Canadian Army Nursing Service. She died of wounds nine days later, May 28th, 1918. Her personal inscription reads, "she did her duty for king and country."

Poor little Gladys Wake has the most dreadful wounds. Gangrene, I'm sure, from the odour. Gladys died at three o'clock.

This is the grave of Nursing Sister Gladys Wake, Canadian Army Nursing Service. She died of wounds two days later, May 21st, 1918. And the personal inscription reads, "the noble Army of martyrs praise thee." The killing of the sisters and the bombing of the hospital created a public outrage. And when the sisters were brought here for burial, they're brought here with full military honours, and uniquely, the event was even filmed.

Gladys buried at 9:30. We all went to the funeral. It was dreadfully trying.


Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Melanie that is a terrific video. And it really does demonstrate the courage, the bravery, the suffering of these women, that has in so many ways gone unrecognized for a number of years. One of the things that's very interesting to women today is the way they were dressed, with the veils, and called Nursing Sisters. It was kind of¬ in 2022, it seems like the de-sexualization of these women; they had to be absolutely pure, and you know, they were sisters. It's fascinating. We wouldn't do that now. We would see them quite differently. But their stories are deeply moving, and also, very, very inspiring. So, maybe you want to tell us now about somebody else, about Edith Monture.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Yes, absolutely. So, as you beautifully said, they were military nurses. It was obviously a demanding job physically and mentally, but it, themselves, they often talked about it as a unique opportunity to serve their country. And they were pioneers in a sense. It was the first, they were the first women in the British Empire to attain the rank of Officer and Lieutenant. It was something they were very proud of. But it's also important to mention that not every woman in Canada at the time could become a nurse, and therefore a military nurse. So, on the next slide, you can see Edith Anderson Monture, who was from the Six Nation of the Grand River reserve near Brantford, Ontario. She really wanted to train as a nurse, but discrimination at the time made it very difficult for her, as an Indigenous woman, to enroll in a Canadian nursing school. So, she saw an ad in the Ontarian Newspaper, and she applied to a nursing school just outside of New York City and she was accepted. So, in 1917, she trained as a nurse there. And when the US joined the war in 1917, she was recruited as a member of the Army Nurse Corps; and she served overseas until 1919. It's also interesting to note that, after the war, Nursing Sister Monture returned to the Six Nation of the Grand River. She got married, she raised a family. And as a married woman and a mother, she was able to continue to work as a nurse for decades, which was very remarkable and unusual for the time.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Yes. So often, when a woman married, she had to quit work, no matter what. Even if she were a typist, or a file clerk, or anything. Once married, you had to leave the workforce. So, she was extremely determined, first and changing countries and going to the States, her passion for nursing must have been a very strong, and then to join the American Service so that she could go overseas and nurse. She was leaping over hurdles, right, left and centre to do that. Such courage. How about the fact that many women could not be recognized as doctors? Maybe you should tell us about Margaret Parks.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Absolutely. So, on the next slide, you can see images from of Dr. Margaret Parks, who was a doctor from New Brunswick. She, like Monture, she was another remarkable woman for the time. She tried to enlist in the Canadian Army Medical Corps as a doctor, but she was refused enrollment because she was a woman. And she was told that her only option was to enlist as a Nursing Sister. So, she did, actually. And once she was overseas, her medical skills were badly needed. And she started working as an anaesthetist as early as November 1914. So, there were around her medical doctors who recognized that her skills were important. And she was allowed to work as a doctor, even though she had to enlist as a nurse.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
This is comparable to young women in the '60s and '70s, who graduated from university with degrees and had to start as secretaries before they could demonstrate that they had a lot more skills that were unrecognized, and they could move up, for example, the corporate ladder. But in this case, war, gave her an opportunity to demonstrate what she could do, and found herself, then, in the role of anaesthetist, so....

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
It's very true, also, for Nursing Sister Nellie Enright, that we can see on the next slide. She was a nurse, but she was one of 20 Nursing Sisters who were allowed to train as anaesthetists during the war. So, they gave them a special training because they really needed skilled workers, and usually this work was done by doctors in Canada at the time. So, the First World War give them an opportunity to get these skills. And when she came back to Canada, Nellie Enright was one of the first nurse anaesthetists who was hired at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal, to work as an anesthetist from 1919 until 1939. So, that was pretty unusual, too. And then, in 1939, when the war broke again, when the Second World War started, Nursing Sister Nellie Enright was way past military age; she was in her mid 50's. And she decided that she was going to offer her service to the Army again. And she was actually she was able to enlist, and she served as a Flight Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1943. At that point, she was, she turned 60 years old, and it was strongly recommended to her that she retires because of her age.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
And you can see her medal in that photograph. You can see by the way she holds her head that she was a woman of great power and authority. And to have served in both World Wars is truly remarkable, quite an accomplishment. But then, there were women who—as we started in the beginning—were at home and were also clearing barriers that women had. And there's a terrific story that you have about Madeleine Houde. Perhaps you could tell us that one now. A woman who didn't get into uniform, but who also served and experienced the changes in life and self-definition that come with earning a paycheck.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Absolutely. So, we have to, I have to highlight that the number of women who had paid employment outside of the Army during the Second World War went from 600,000 in 1939, to 1.2 million in 1944. So, a lot of women took employment during outside of the Army during the Second World War. And in this case, married women with older children or no young children could also get a position, for example, in munitions factory, and other type of war industries. And one of the women workers from the Second World War was Madeleine Houde, from Montréal. She was the daughter of Mayor of Montréal, Camillien Houde. And during the war, her dad was in was interned for the majority of the war because he opposed national registration. So, Madeleine was in her mid-20's at the time, and she took a big part of the responsibility for providing for her mother and her two sisters during the war. And when we read the letters that Madeleine exchanged with her father, there are hundreds of them. We really can feel the excitement and the pride that she felt about the administrative work that she started doing for the Imperial Oil Limited in Montréal during the war. She explains that it makes her feel very competent, and also that she was allowed to open her own bank account for the first time, and that she's very getting used to receiving a salary every week. So, obviously, I have to say here that this is one account, and that not all women found that their World War jobs were enjoyable. Some of them were very difficult; very long hours, dangerous, working with chemicals. And they were not all as fulfilling as it was for Madeleine. But for many of them, based on accounts from after the war, it did help build their confidence and also some sense of independence.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Yes, and when you talk about the women at home making these changes; these, you know, tiny changes, one life at a time. As you and I discussed the other day, it's like erosion by water. Drip, drip, drip. And it cuts a course even through rock, and it was changing society. These women, once the war was over and they were expected to go back into the home, and be housewives, and raise children, there was a burbling undercurrent—probably left from many of the experiences during the war—that really drove those women to eventually create the women's movement, and Betty Friedan, and, you know, everybody else. Things that those of us who are living in 2022, we reaped the benefits of those things. And they started, I believe, with people like Madeleine Houde having this experience, and some of the others that you've talked about, who went overseas and who discovered who they really were.

I know next you're going to talk about one of my favourites, Margaret Brooke; she was in the Navy. And I especially like her because I've been on the ship that was named after her, the Margaret Brooke, which is one of the new Canadian Arctic offshore patrol vessels. And it has a co-sponsor, who is Margaret Brooke's niece, Allyson Brooke. And the commander of the ship is also a woman, Commander Nicole Robichaud. So, I would, I'm really excited about Melanie telling you about Margaret Brooke and what she did, and why we have a beautiful new ship named after her. Melanie?

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
She was an incredible person for sure, and she had an incredible career. So, I will take just a few seconds to say that, during the Second World War, there were more opportunities opening for Canadian women in the Army. So that's interesting, because we went from Nursing Sisters, and there are still over four thousand Nursing Sisters who served in World War Two, so we can't forget about them. But there were also close to 50,000 Canadian women who served in the new Women's Division of the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. One of them was Nursing Sister dietician Margaret Brooke. She enrolled in March in 1942. And we absolutely have to talk about the tragedy that she experienced in the fall of the same year. So, in 1942, the ferry, SS Caribou, on which she was travelling with 237 people, was torpedoed by a German submarine. So, it went down in five minutes. So, you can imagine the horror, and the traumatic experience she went through. And while she was fighting for her own survival, she did everything she could to try and save her colleague Agnes Wilkie's life. She was hanging to her friend with one arm, while clinging to ropes on a lifeboat. And unfortunately, are friend drowned in the frigid water. But for her action in this time of crisis, Brooke was named a member of the Order of the British Empire.

She passed away in 2016, but she lived long enough to learn, in 2015, that an arctic, an offshore patrol ship would carry her name. So, the official naming ceremony for the ship was conducted in May 2022. And I believe, Wendy, you had the great privilege to be there?

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
I will let you talk about the pictures on the slides that you generously provided.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
These were just snapshots that I took on my iPhone, because I was very honoured to be there to see this ship named, and to meet Allyson Brooke, the niece. And of course, I had a chance to actually go on the ship, and these new Arctic offshore patrol vessels are stunningly beautiful. The thing that I found very moving about going through the ship is the locket. The family gave the ship her locket, which is framed in one of the quarters on the ship. And you see this pretty silver locket, and it's that sort of thing that brings it home to you that this was a woman, just like, you know, any human being, who has a treasure—a little locket—that speaks to you of who that person was. And yet, that locket can never tell you what courage she summoned to try to save her friend in those icy waters.

So, and having a woman as the commander of the ship. You know, there's an impact that these women had on society, generally. But also, on our Armed Forces; our Armed Forces are working very hard—I know more from the Navy perspective than from others—but very, very hard to really make it a make it clear that all Canadians are welcome in the forces. That there is a place for you, that you will be respected, and honoured, and educated in your trade. And so, people like Margaret Brooke were one of the leaders in this. And I am, I was thrilled when I learned that they were going to name the ship after her. So, it's a very big deal for a lot of women. And I hope that those listening understand what this is. I also hope that if ever you have an opportunity, I know, I know the Navy brings that we do a Great Lakes deployment, and we come to the Great Lakes. Because otherwise, we don't see a lot of the Navy. We have a Reserves Division HMCS York down on the lake shore, you need to learn about us. We see more of the Army and the Air Force, of course, because we live inland; we see less of the Navy. But yes, I should turn it back to you, Melanie. You have more to say.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
It's perfect. It's very interesting. And following on the locket, as you said, the objects are sometimes so powerful. And I think that's an integral part of the work that we do at the War Museum. So, I had another slide that I just wanted to show our audience, with material and photos that help illustrate the work of women in the Navy in the Second World War. And some of these objects are, you know, the uniforms they were wearing, and the evolving uniforms, and how proud they were, as you can see on the photo; there were also paintings of them. And so, it's the kind of stories and material that visitors can see at the War Museum, and that are an integral part of our military history, also.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Right. Well, we have one more lady that you're going to talk to us about. A fantastic woman, who was also courageous, and brave, and very determined.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Absolutely. So, there were more opportunities open to Canadian women in the Army in the Second World War. It was also true for women from minority groups, although racial discrimination was still present—we have to stay true to the time—but a few Black Canadian women were able to enlist in the Canadian Women Army Corps, especially towards the end of the war. And one of these women was Minnie Eleanor Gray. So, Private Minnie Gray. She enlisted in the Canadian Woman Army Corps in January 1944. And we have a few of her scrapbooks at the Canadian War Museum, and they are fantastic to tell her story; but also, the story of the women who was serving in this women's division. And on the on this slide, we see cooks, for example. Because even though women had more opportunities in the Second World War, it was still trades that were open to them were still closed to traditional woman's work at the time. For example, cooking, cleaning, doing others other—there were clerks, but there were very few welders, or driver mechanic. Even though they were a little minority of them, it was mostly work that was deemed appropriate to women at the time. And the goal was that they would replace men in these kinds of trades, so that men could go overseas to fight. So, there were no combat roles for women at the time; it will take many, many years still.

But in this case, for Minnie Gray, is it was still an amazing opportunity. And what's also special about this story, is she was one of the women who was able to serve overseas. Because most women who served in the Army, Navy, or the Air Force, served in Canada. On the 15,000, there's about 5000 who went overseas; so, she was exceptional in that sense. And she, when we look at her pictures, when we look in the materials she left behind, it's easy to see that she was very proud of what she experienced. She was a medical orderly during the war, so she would assist medical staff with first aid, cleaning, and administrative work. And after the war, she used her military credentials again, to enroll in a course in Montréal to become a health attendant. And so, she continued working in that field after the war.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Well, and you know, when you said that things were often to replace what men did, let's think for a second. Even our late Queen was a mechanic, right? She served as a mechanic during the war.

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
And on the home front, my late mother-in-law had served in Great Britain. She was a young girl in Yorkshire, she'd been in the Land Army, and always talked about how much she loved being in the Land Army. And these were young women who were replacing male farmers to produce food. But Canada had a Land Army, too, except they had a rather amusing name; they were called Farmerettes. Which, that name struck me as being quite funny. But they were hardworking women who took over farm work in the absence of men. And likewise, the young women who went to work in the munitions factories were called Munitionnettes. And Melanie, you referred to the danger. They were working with chemicals, they had accidents, they were injured, and their other nickname was the Canary Girls. And they were called Canary Girls because the interaction of TNT and melanin in their skin often turned them quite yellow. But again, it was the idea that they were replacing men. Replacing men because the men had to go off to war.

So, I mean, I think about the people who are tuned in and watching this, and many of you will have had parents who talk to you about their war experiences, or grandparents. I certainly, my dad talked to me about his time in the Air Force—although I will admit, he only talked about the fun, he would never talk about the sadness and the tragedy and the terrible things he saw. But my mother, who was at home, would talk about racing home from work to knit socks. She had two brothers, one in the Army, one in the Navy. And she was knitting socks like crazy to send over. And she was just one of many, many women who were doing these things at home, and feeling, genuinely, a part of the war effort in both wars.

You know, Margaret MacMillan, the Canadian historian, has said, you know, we really look at whatever happened in the past through the eyes of today. So, we're looking at what happened in 1914 or 1939, with the eyes of people who live in 2022. And as an historian, Melanie, you try to make us see, I think, through the eyes of people who lived at that time, so that we are less, maybe judgmental, of something. Do you want to just talk about that a little bit? How you do that in the museum?

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
Absolutely. You're absolutely correct. I remind myself all the time that we don't see the world as it is, we see it as we are. And it's very important to be critical when we look at the past. Because it's very easy for us to judge women from the past, based on our own reality, on our own agenda, on what we're fighting for today. So, I think it's important, also, to remember, us historians, or everyone to remember that woman's work in the wars was never presented by the government or military official. And most of the time by women themselves ,as something that was a right for them, or way to promote women's rights. So, we have to remember that it was always presented as a temporary measure caused by the emergency of the war. But in spite of all the barriers, in spite of that, many women at the time were seeing themselves as pioneers. I'm thinking about the military nurses in the First World War, for example. They were convinced that they were doing something very important for the war, for their country, for the soldiers. And it's something that stayed with them. It's something that many women also passed on to their daughters and do their sons after the war. So, I think it's important to remember that, when we study war, and then when we share it.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
I think, too, that it's important that we understand that the women who—particularly, those who joined the military, or went out and got jobs—they had a battle on two fronts. They had they had the enemy—who was everybody's enemy—but they also had a battle on the home front. And that battle may have been—I mean, it was a societal battle; but it may have been with their father or their brother, who felt that it was unladylike, that they shouldn't be doing this thing. Society can be very oppressive at times. And for these women, it was. But somehow, they punched through...

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
...and they did join the military, or they did get jobs, or they did serve as Farmerettes and Munitionettes. And empowered themselves because they were able to do that. I think....

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
One thing—sorry—I really want to mention, if you give me the permission, is, because we're talking oppression, I think it's very important to remember that some women on the home front had to deal with very oppressive laws in the situation. For example, like the Japanese Canadian women and girls were interned in the Second World War...

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil

Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier
...that was a very difficult situation. And they didn't benefit from the freedom, or from the—they were not accused of anything, but somehow, they were victim of racial discrimination and racism from the time. And they will put aside their homes, and everything was sold, so I think it's important to remember that part of history, too. And it's very important for us historians at the museum to show all of the side of our past and our history.

Dr. Wendy M. Cecil
Right. And also, as Margaret MacMillan says, how we remember the past changes as society changes, because we ask new, and we ask different questions. And while war has long been something that men did, now we want to know what it meant for women. And this is your area of study. Melanie. I'm really grateful to you for sharing all of these stories with us; I'm sure our audience has enjoyed them, too. And I think we might have time for one question, I have one that has come in. But before I do that, I would just like to encourage everybody to visit the Canadian War Museum. You have had only the amuse bouche. You've only had a tiny, tiny taste of what they can offer you, if you are interested in our history.

So, the question that came through was, how are women serving now in the Armed Forces? And my goodness, they are definitely serving. And as you learned from Commander Robichaud, they are commanding ships, they are doing everything. We are encouraging women to join the Forces, there are opportunities there. I said earlier that all of the Forces are working very hard to make this an appealing career for women. There are terrific careers for men and women in our Armed Forces, and there is great dignity to be found there as well. So, that is how I will answer the question, because I know we are beginning to run low on time. And I believe it is now the hour that I say, thank you for tuning in and showing your interest in this. A special thanks, too, to Melanie, for all of the work that she did to provide us with these very stimulating, and touching, and inspiring stories. So, now I'll turn it back over to Sal.

Sal Rabbani
Thank you. Thank you, Wendy and Melanie for helping us better understand the fundamental roles women played in Canada's war efforts and sharing their heroic stories. I'd now like to take this opportunity to invite Hari Panday, Honorary Colonel, 32nd Service Battalion, Board Member for Meridian Credit Union, the Ontario Securities Commission, and Board Chair of Tarion Warranty Corporation, to deliver some appreciation remarks. Hari, over to you.

Note of Appreciation by Hari Panday, Honourary Colonel, Thirty-Two Service Battalion & Board Member, Meridian Credit Union, Meridian Credit Union
Thank you very much, Sal. And thank you for the opportunity to address the group today. Given the timing of this event, let me begin by remembering our fallen, and thanking the Empire Club of Canada for hosting this important conversation. And Dr. Morin-Pelletier, and Honorary Captain of the Navy, Dr. Cecil, for the engaging conversation and insights. Canada is a world leader in terms of proportion of women in its military. Women have been involved in Canada's military service and contributed throughout our rich military history and heritage for more than one hundred years. Today, they have been fully integrated in all occupations and roles, such as pilots, orthopaedic surgeons, armour officers, cyber operators, maritime systems engineers. Servicewomen of the Navy, Army and Air Force, endure much hardship while serving Canada. They meet the accompanying challenges with hope, courage, and, most importantly, success. They serve on global operations ranging from peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, through to security and peace enforcement. Such achievements contribute to the full and equal inclusion of women in our society and national institutions. It's important that we, as community, take the chance to educate ourselves about this endeavour, to reflect upon, and leverage the lessons of our history. Conversations such as the one presented today provide just such an opportunity.

With that in mind, it is my pleasure to have joined you today on behalf of Meridian Credit Union. Our corporate mission, helping you achieve your best life, is inclusive of all Canadians, and can only be achieved with the equitable participation of all. The lessons that we can take from today are many. They are as pertinent today as ever before, as we face new unique challenges as a society. Our future will be shaped by the people who provide those answers. It's our job to continue to support and participate in events like todays, where we glean important insights into, and learnings from chapters passed. On behalf of Meridian, I want to thank you all for joining the Empire Club today. We're proud to support this event, and others like it, as we look towards tomorrow. I look forward to learning much more from today's event. Thank you, Sal.

Concluding Remarks by Sal Rabbani
Thank you. Thank you, Colonel Panday. And thanks again to our sponsors, Meridian Credit Union, the Jackman Foundation and Bruce Power. Thank you to the Empire Club Foundation, King and Empire Foundation, Dr. Wendy Cecil, Dr. Melanie Morin-Pelletier, and everyone joining us today online.

As a club of record, all Empire Club of Canada events are available to watch and listen to on demand on our website. The recording of this event will be available shortly, and everyone registered will receive an email with the link. Our next event is on November 22. Join us in person at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, as we host David Hutchens, President and CEO of Fortis, speak to mitigating environmental impacts, adapting to climate change, and how we navigate the road to a cleaner energy future. Thanks again for joining us today. This meeting is now adjourned.

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Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War

November 10, 2022 Remembrance Day Reflection: Canadian Women in War