Canadian Ambassador for Women Peace and Security Jacqueline O'Neill, left to right, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng arrive to Yod Abyssinia Restaurant to take part in a discussion with Ethiopian women entrepreneurs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Canada women’s security envoy sees rising authoritarian control during COVID-19

Canada women’s security envoy sees rising authoritarian control during COVID-19

OTTAWA — Authoritarian leaders are using COVID-19 to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ2 people, says Canada’s new ambassador for women, peace and security.

Jacqueline O’Neill said she is seeing a growing number of attacks against defenders of the human rights of women and LGBTQ2 persons, which is putting progress on those issues in peril.

“The pandemic and particularly authoritarian responses to COVID-19 represent existential threats for many women peacebuilders and local organizations,” O’Neill said Monday during testimony before the House of Commons defence committee.

She also said it remains a challenge in some parts of the world for women to be heard in peacebuilding and conflict resolution discussions.

“Women around the world, for example, in Afghanistan, are still fighting for direct representation in peace talks.”

O’Neill said there is a growing body of data that shows women increase the operational effectiveness of security forces because they can offer a broader perspective on what is going on in a community, which increases situational awareness.

Still, she said women comprise only six per cent of UN military peacekeepers, and many of those face unacceptable working conditions.

O’Neill said that state of affairs persists even though Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the UN resolution that affirms the role of women in preventing conflict, negotiating peace, peacekeeping and reconstructing postwar societies.

O’Neill also discounted the notion that gender issues are an “add-on” to peace and security discussions because women have a key role to play in building peace, and they are also active combatants in simmering conflicts around the world.

“I often talk about how we have adversaries around the world who don’t see this as an add-on issue. Boko Haram, two thirds of their suicide bombers are women. ISIS, one out of five foreign fighters who left from North America or Europe to fight was a woman,” she said, referring to the Nigerian rebel militia that has enslaved children and girls, and the Islamic State group, or Daesh.

O’Neill was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2019 to advise the government on how to protect the rights of women and girls who face violence and insecurity.

O’Neill is tasked with advancing the government’s feminist foreign policy, and she told MPs women deserve a seat at all international tables when it comes to advancing peace and security.

“I recognize that feminist is often a very loaded word, especially when you associate it with security and defence issues,” she said.

“But I find that almost without exception, when you unpack the concept, it’s something that the vast majority of Canadians agree with.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The revised plans for the Dream Centre feature a two-storey renovated building. The centre launched a campaign Monday in hopes of raising more than a million to help with building renovation. (Contributed image).
Red Deer Dream Centre launches campaign, hopes to raise $1.4M

The Red Deer Dream Centre (RDDC) is hoping to raise $1.4 million… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced more than 1,500 active cases in Alberta Monday afternoon and five additional deaths. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Red Deer at 141 active cases

Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer area seniors facility pauses visits after staff tests positive for COVID

A Red Deer County seniors facility has put the breaks on visitors… Continue reading

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Alberta confirmed 1,584 COVID-19 cases Sunday afternoon. The total active cases went… Continue reading

Lynn Van Laar, chair of this year’s Christmas Wish Breakfast, said the event was planned outdoors to minimize the risk of COVID. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff
Outdoor Christmas Wish Breakfast helps central Alberta families this holiday season

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t going to stop children from having a merry… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses after responding to a question about the holidays during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau joins G20 in promising COVID-19 aid to poor nations, rejecting protectionism

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined leaders from the world’s 20… Continue reading

Justice Minister David Lametti responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death in Canada has raised the ire of the Canadian Psychiatric Association over the proposed law’s explicit rejection of mental illness as grounds for ending a patient’s life. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental illness in assisted dying-bill slammed by psychiatrists

OTTAWA — The federal bill revising the rules on medically assisted death… Continue reading

The Quebec flag is seen on the podium as Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet responds to a question during a news conference Wednesday June 3, 2020 in Ottawa. Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in Quebec have boiled over in the past week, with politicians seizing on a Liberal MP’s initial brush-off of the issue as evidence of indifference to a crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Angst around French language boils over in Quebec, as politicians warn of ‘decline’

MONTREAL — Perennial anxieties around the state of the French language in… Continue reading

Numuch Keitlah, left, and Jake Thomas, centre, participate in a Coastal Nations search and rescue exercise off the coast of Vancouver Island in this undated handout photo. The recently operational Coastal Nations Coast Guard Auxiliary has more than 50 members from five Indigenous territories who are trained in marine search and rescue. They are on call day and night to respond to emergencies along some of B.C.’s most rugged and remote coastal areas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Jordan Wilson *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Canada’s first Indigenous-led coast guard auxiliary patrols B.C.’s rugged coast

VICTORIA — The winds were gusting at 110 kilometres per hour and… Continue reading

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet has sponsored the VanVleet Court at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, Ill. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Fred VanVleet signs four-year, US$85-million deal with Toronto Raptors

TORONTO — Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in free… Continue reading

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
‘Hardship is not a new thing:’ Nunavut fights COVID-19 as cases continue to rise

IQALUIT — It has been just over two weeks since Nunavut declared… Continue reading

Pedestrians walk past Pfizer world headquarters in New York on Monday Nov. 9, 2020. Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials,<br>Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have recently announced they're developed COVID-19 vaccines that are 95 per cent effective. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Bebeto Matthews
A long way from lab bench to bedside: Virus experts urge COVID-19 vaccine caution

Despite recent optimism over reported results from COVID-19 vaccine trials, virologists say… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
After COVID-related transplant delays, 16-year-old N.S. girl gets lung transplant

‘This is the difficult time now of seeing Tahlia in ICU hooked up to 15 IVs and sedated’

Most Read