Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies

Collaborative Specialization

Transitional Justice and Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Supervisor

Baruah, Bipasha

2nd Supervisor

Quinn, Joanna

Co-Supervisor

Abstract

Most Canadians consider peacekeeping to be an important part of the country’s identity. Since its heyday in the 1960s to the 1990s, when Canada was one of the world’s largest contributors of “blue helmets,” its reputation as a peacekeeping nation has been diminished by scandals and the failure of UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) in countries such as Somalia and Rwanda. However, with the election of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015, the Liberal majority government promised to re-engage Canada in peacekeeping—a promise that also entails increasing the involvement of women in peacekeeping missions. My doctoral research project identifies opportunities and constraints for Canadian women’s participation in UN PKOs through 40 in-depth interviews with women who have served in PKOs (e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mali and South Sudan). Although a few Canadian scholars have provided critical theoretical perspectives on peacekeeping, to date no primary research has been conducted to understand the grounded opportunities and constraints faced by Canadian women serving in UN PKOs. Since the majority of personnel deployed on UN PKOs are uniformed, women’s experiences in peacekeeping cannot be understood without also examining their experiences in the Canadian Armed Forces. As such, my research questions look at the experiences of women in the CAF at home and abroad: What are the opportunities and constraints experienced by women in the CAF? What motivates Canadian women to participate in PKOs? Do they consider their contributions to PKOs to be different from those of male peacekeepers? How does gender identity trouble, reinforce, or contradict objectives of PKOs? Through thematic analysis of qualitative data collected from interviews and triangulation with existing literature on gender and peacekeeping, my doctoral dissertation attempts to provide answers to these questions. My findings point broadly to the importance of not relying on operational effectiveness arguments for improving the representation of women in militarized institutions. People of all genders deserve to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces and in PKOs for intrinsic reasons of equity and fairness, not because they can improve these deeply masculinist and hierarchical institutions solely by their presence. By engaging intersectionally with gender, my research also identified the ways in which class, race, sexual orientation, education, language, and place of origin influence the identities of Canadian peacekeepers. My findings reinforce the importance of paying more nuanced attention to such markers of identity in policies aimed at diversifying the CAF and PKOs. I sought ethics approval for my doctoral research from Western University and the Department of National Defence (DND). I hope my findings will inform gender equality and culture change policies within the Canadian Armed Forces and in UN PKOs.

Summary for Lay Audience

Most Canadians consider peacekeeping to be an important part of the country’s identity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to re-engage Canada in peacekeeping—a promise that also entails increasing the involvement of women in peacekeeping operations (PKOs). My doctoral research project identifies opportunities and constraints for Canadian women’s participation in UN PKOs through 40 in-depth interviews with women who have served in PKOs (e.g. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Mali and South Sudan). Peacekeeping experiences cannot be understood without also examining women’s experiences in the Canadian Armed Forces. As such, my research questions look at the experiences of women in the CAF at home and abroad: What are the opportunities and constraints experienced by women in the CAF? What motivates Canadian women to participate in PKOs? Do they consider their contributions to PKOs to be different from those of male peacekeepers? How does gender identity trouble, reinforce, or contradict objectives of PKOs? Through thematic analysis of qualitative data collected from interviews and triangulation with existing literature on gender and peacekeeping, my doctoral dissertation attempts to provide answers to these questions.

Share

COinS