15 Wing Moose Jaw celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 with a major event hosted in the OB Philps building and organized by the base’s Gender-Based Violence Committee. 

The International Women’s Day celebration ran from 10 a.m. to noon in the OB Philps atrium. 

Wing Commander Col. Dan Coutts was present and was joined by Wing Chief Warrant Officer Rachel Fox and many other Canadian Armed Forces personnel, from pilots to aviation techs to instructors to musicians.  

CAF officer Margaret Carey spoke about her career both in and outside the Forces, and performed on the violin. 

Another highlight was an all-female pilot fly-by at 10:20 a.m. Major Amanda Maki led a three-plane formation of CT-156 Harvard aircraft and (after landing) spoke to attendees at the head of an even larger delegation of female pilots. 

Author Kim Mills, a long-time military spouse who has written and spoken extensively on the military lifestyle, travelled from Edmonton to be the keynote speaker. Also present were many community leaders from Moose Jaw, such as city councillor Crystal Froese. 

The style of the event speaks to the ambitious cultural reforms the CAF is undergoing. The reforms are aimed at making people of all genders and ethnicities feel safe and welcome in the CAF and are seen as essential as Canada’s military recruitment and readiness efforts continue to face challenges. 

Col. Dan Coutts, Wing Commander of CFB Moose Jaw, speaks to guests at the base's International Womens Day eventCol. Dan Coutts, Wing Commander of CFB Moose Jaw, speaks to guests at the base's International Womens Day event (photo by Gordon Edgar)

In his opening remarks, Col. Coutts tributed the historical efforts of feminists who have fought to advance the status of women for decades. He said those efforts have benefited everyone and need ongoing support and commitment. 

“As we look at not just the legal battles that have been fought, but the social efforts that have been put forth to built equity, equality, inclusion in the workforce, there’s still a lot of distance to go, but (those efforts) have benefited everybody. 

“The efforts of those early feminists and champions have benefited us all in Canada, across the world, but also in the Canadian Armed Forces especially. And that journey continues.” 

WCWO Fox agreed with Coutts and called for more Canadian women and gender-diverse individuals to join the CAF to continue building the organization Canada needs. 

“Join the Forces, make a difference, come join our team,” Fox said firmly. “I’m not going to say it’s all roses, because it’s not, but as the Wing Commander just stated, moving forward, learning these lessons, gaining the diversity and inclusion of not just women, but all of the diverse gender classes that we are now embracing... We can’t do it alone. 

“The more voices that can be heard, the more diverse opinions that we get, only make us stronger. And as the CAF, that can only improve the organization as a whole.” 

Nicole Hebert is a social worker at the Moose Jaw Military and Family Resource Centre and the event's main organizer. She said the focus was on making a space where everyone felt welcome, seen, and learned from, and noted the support she and her team had received from military leadership. 

“The passion and the drive was to provide a safe space for all to be able to attend,” Hebert explained. “Not just women, but a lot of our leaders who are here, male demographics, queer demographics as well. We wanted to be all-encompassing.” 

Hebert said a full year had gone into planning because military culture is not yet adapted to these kinds of events — outside of the rigid structure, uniformed formality, and drill-sergeant-tough attitude typically associated with the armed forces. 

“Today was about learning and just seeing how people might respond to hosting an event this way. The idea was not to take people away from, I would say, the environment they work in.  

“We have a lot of women and women-presenting leaders here and it was really important for us to be with them in their active line of duty, and for them to have that space to represent themselves, as well as welcoming others into that same environment.”