Joey Coleman: Women as Honourary Colonels in the Canadian Forces

Women as Honourary Colonels in the Canadian Forces

Colonel Dan Stephaniuk is the new Brigade Commander of the 32 Canadian Bridge Group, the army reserve brigade for the Greater Toronto Area.

In a series of emails, "obtained" by Postmedia, Col. Stepaniuk orders the unit commanders of his 14 units to appoint women as Honourary Colonels of their regiments:

"Honorary appointees are nominated by the CO (unit commanding officer) to me, not by the senate or regimental committee,” he said in his email.

“If your association/regimental committee/senate are helping you to choose a suitable nominee and they are not using an appropriate diversity lens, it is your responsibility to ignore their recommendations and proceed to find a suitable candidate.

“If this is not absolutely clear, if we don’t proceed in the direction of achieving gender diversity, I’m prepared to have no honoraries because as current appointments expire, folks won’t be replaced.”

Stepaniuk warned that “The appearance is that many folks are not taking this direction seriously and/or are hoping that this is a ‘fad’ and will simply go away."

“It’s not going away.”

I directly reported to Col. Stephaniuk (then a Capt) in 2002/03. I can tell you that he is serious, he was one of the few officers in my regiment serious about implementing culture change and upheld the highest standards of honour.

I cannot share the details of how he earned my respect, as it was a legal matter, what I can say is that he was just as forceful in making the military the great institution it aspires to be, held himself to even higher standards than aspiration, and had an attention to detail unlike any other officer I served under.

The appointment of women as Honourary Colonels in the militia will do much to improve gender equality in the forces, and to advance the relations of the reserve to its community.

Let's not forget the great pride in our Canadian Forces instilled when Governor General Michaëlle Jean worn the uniform starting in 2009.