Servicewomen’s Salute – Hommage aux Femmes Militaires Canada began in 2017 as a citizen-led volunteer Canada 150 Campaign To Know, Honour, and Strengthen the historic and continuing contribution of former and current Canadian Armed Forces servicewomen to Canada.
The 2017 Servicewomen’s Salute fact-finding exercise behind the Canada 150 Legacy Campaign found significant offers of help and interest by former and current servicewomen and men, Members of Parliament and Senators, Canadian War Museum, local museums and archives, public libraries, Military Gals Facebook site Administrators, Historica Canada, Nursing Sisters Association of Canada, WRCNS Toronto branch, HMCS York and Carleton, many university researchers, Women in Defence and Security, and ‘hidden gems’ of Canadian history, archived local records and artwork located all over Canada. We found many many former and current women with hugely fascinating stories, and shared much laughter.
The fact-finding exercise also found:
- gaps in recording and accessing Canadian military women’s 132-year history;
- very rare public celebration of servicewomen’s unique historical and contemporary contributions to Canada;
- no coordination or aggregated collection of whole-of-community resources in Canada supporting former or current servicewomen’s interests, goals, and issues; and,
- no ongoing opportunity for servicewomen to share, digitally record, enjoy and benefit from their reflections and insights arising from their experiences as military members.
Also evident was rare external leadership, and over-reliance on the few wanting to tell their stories as a public narrative about Canadian military women and their service to Canada.
The Canada 150 Servicewomen’s Salute Organizing Committee ended the Canada 150 sesquicentennial year by staging the Canada 150 Servicewomen’s Salute at the Canadian War Museum honouring and recognizing Canadian Armed Forces servicewomen.
December 13, 2017 was chosen because it allowed the centennial celebration of perhaps the most notable historical date for Canadian women – December 17 1917 when the first Canadian women ever exercised their full suffrage ie having all municipal, provincial, and national voting rights as a Canadian citizen of Canada:
1. As a result of the September 20 1917 Military Voters Act, an estimated 504 Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps Nursing Sisters serving overseas in France voted in both early balloting on December 5, 1917 or on the December 17, 1917 election date. As a result, they are the first ever women to have full voting rights in Canada;
2. As a result of the September 20 1917 Military Elections Act, an additional 50O,000-plus Canadian adult women of military family members serving overseas voted on December 17 1917, and so joined their military sisters as the first women in Canada to also receive full suffrage.
Since then, 2018 and 2019 Servicewomen’s Salute Canada Activities have included:
a. the start of building online, interactive SWS Search Directories of historical and contemporary resources describing Canadian military women’s history, lived experience, research, artistic expression, and artifact catalogue listings.
b. use of Servicewomen’s Salute Canada social media postings, discussions, and sharing to create greater public awareness of veteran and current servicewomen’s continuing contributions to Canada, issues they continue to face, and their supporters.
c. Production of ‘An Invisible Force’ documentary and photo-21 stories of veteran servicewomen by Ryerson University’s Peridot Production media students’ team.
d. Collaboration with academic researchers seeking to add greater understandings of Canadian women’s military service.
e. Development of civilian work opportunities and peer-support networks for PRes and Regular Force, active and former service women.
f. Incorporation of Servicewomen’s Salute – Hommage aux Femmes Militaires Canada as a Military Member Association and employment social enterprise recognizing and supporting former and current Reserve and Regular Forces servicewomen’s loyalty and contribution to Canada.