“Three Leafs” for the Woman In Blue: Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross

 

Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross. You may not have heard of her before, but you certainly should now. She has broken many barriers in the Canadian Armed Forces, including becoming the first female commanding officer of the 1 Construction Engineering Unit, in charge of deploying “specialist military engineering services all over the world.” She also became the first female commander of the Joint Task Force North, which is responsible for all of the CF’s operations in northern Canada.

Article 5 - image Major General

In early 2015, she reached new heights, becoming the CF’s first female “three leaf” general. Her new appointment, chief of military personnel, has given her the difficult responsibility of finding solutions to the CF’s many personnel issues including sexual harassment and mental illness. This action by Chief of Defence staff, Tom Lawson, follows the release of a scathing report produced by Marie Deschamps outlining the sexual harassment issues within the CF.

Lieutenant-General Whitecross will lead the Canadian Armed Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct. There is no shortage of challenges for Whitecross, as the CF faces intense scrutiny by the Canadian Government and the Canadian public. All eyes will be on this powerful female figure and what she can do to alter the “culture” of the Canadian Armed Forces in regards to sexual misconduct.

Whitecross appears cautiously hopeful, stating to the House of Commons in May that among the Commanders, “They all want to be engaged in setting the conditions for a better trust in the chain of command.” However, “While there is a collective will to move the organization forward, there is little consensus as to the gravity of the existing problem.”

Good luck Lieutenant-General.

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About Victoria Heath

Victoria is a former Program Editor for Women in Security at the NATO Association of Canada. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a BA, honours degree in History and Political Science with a focus on the Middle East and women's rights. She was a member of AmeriCorps from 2013-2014 working at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, NJ as a tutor and advisor for high-risk students. Her interests in security, women's rights and defense issues originate from her family's background in the U.S. military and growing up abroad in the Middle East. She has done previous research in U.S. Foreign Policy and Congressional affairs at Project Vote Smart, as well as research in women's health and refugee issues for the Lutheran World Federation in Kakuma, Kenya. She is also the creator of the Migration and Policy Coalition at the University of Toronto and the Co-Chair of the MGA Crisis Simulation 2016. She is currently pursuing her MGA at the Munk School of Global Affairs and is expected to graduate in 2016. You can connect with her @victoria_heath7 on Twitter or send her an email at victoria.heath@mail.utoronto.ca