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posted 10 March 2021 02:21     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Navy to let women sail on submarines
Last all-male bastion of Canadian Forces
to be integrated on new vessels next year

Friday, March 9, 2021

HALIFAX and OTTAWA -- Master Seaman Sophie MacArthur got her first look at the cramped quarters and complicated technology inside Canada's lone operating submarine yesterday -- and began seriously thinking about signing up for the service.

"I like to try new things. I don't know if I'd want to do it for the rest of my life but I definitely want to have a try at it," the 10-year veteran, now serving as a naval communicator on HMCS Montreal, said shortly after the navy announced women would be eligible for service on submarines.

"It's very different working on a ship. On a submarine you have to basically be able to perform any job on board in an emergency so it takes a lot of skills just to be a submariner," said MS MacArthur, gazing down from the dock at Victoria, a refurbished British submarine recently bought by the Canadian navy.

In the face of strong opposition from male sailors, the navy said women would be eligible for service in the last all-male bastions in the Canadian Forces, following Norway, Sweden and Australia in opening submarines to women.

The announcement caps an 11-year effort by the Canadian Forces to comply with the equality provisions of federal law and to topple barriers to women serving in every type of combat role from fighter pilot to infantry soldier.

Integrated sub crews will become a reality next year when the first women volunteers complete specialized training for service aboard Canada's four new Victoria-class submarines, said Vice-Admiral Greg Maddison, chief of the navy.

HMCS Victoria was commissioned last December. Its sister ships are expected to arrive at six-month intervals over the next two years.

The new British-made subs are roomier than Canada's now-retired Oberon-class, thus allowing separate change rooms and toilet facilities for men and women.

MS MacArthur was going home last night to consider signing up for service under the sea -- which involves month-long voyages in close quarters with little privacy.

She doesn't foresee any problems with privacy issues, even though men and women would have to sleep in the same area -- segregated sleeping quarters were ruled out because of the expense of renovating compartments.

"There's concern [with privacy] on any ship, whether it's a submarine or a surface vessel. As long as everybody is adult about it there shouldn't be any problem," she said.

But the problem may not be the 50 people working in the submarine. It may come from suspicious and skeptical spouses on land.

At a briefing on board the Victoria yesterday, several sailors expressed concern about their wives' reactions, said Commander Bill Woodburn, who skippers the Victoria.

He said there are many questions about how women will be integrated into the operation of the submarines.

"Is it doable? Yes. Do we have all the answers? No," Cmdr. Woodburn said.

Rear Admiral Bruce MacLean, commander of the Maritime Atlantic Force, said women would have a chance to take a look at life on a submarine before they literally take the plunge.

"It is going to be a challenge both for our men and women and in how we deal with the concerns of their spouses at home," Rear Adm. MacLean said.

"But I am absolutely convinced you simply can't deny 50 per cent of the population an opportunity to serve Canada on a submarine."

Rear Adm. MacLean said the privacy issue has been dealt with in other branches of the Forces.

"We have men and women sleeping in tents in Bosnia for months at a time. Is that any different type of privacy situation than on a submarine? I don't think so," he said.

Vice-Adm. Maddison said integration will require "cultural changes" among male submariners, and there may be "issues about how you deal with relationships that may develop" aboard the subs, but the navy believes its sailors are adult professionals who can adapt.

Canada's other warships -- indeed all Canadian Forces combat units -- were ordered integrated in 1989 by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. But the cramped Oberon submarines were exempted because of the lack of privacy.

Vice-Adm. Maddison said the four Victorias -- each with a crew of 48 officers and sailors -- afford men and women a measure of privacy, thus eliminating the last barrier to mixed crews.

He acknowledged there will be strong opposition from male submariners who are used to working in their skivvies on long undersea voyages.

They enjoy being in a "male-dominated culture where they could wander around in a submarine with a certain level of clothing on or off," Vice-Adm. Maddison said. "That will change."

A survey of 256 submariners found that fully two-thirds opposed the idea of mixed crews. Many of the men said they believed their wives would object because of the possibility of extramarital relationships developing. (Military regulations forbid sexual contacts in the workplace, including aboard ships.) The survey was conducted two years ago when the Canadian Forces began studying the issue.

Male sailors also strongly opposed integration of frigates, minesweepers and other surface ships in 1989, but mixed crews have proven to be a success, Vice-Adm. Maddison said.

"There really is a behavioural change, an attitudinal and cultural change, when men and women are serving together. And it's all positive," he said.

The navy has about 10,000 sailors. About a thousand of them are women. The women tend to be in onshore administrative and clerical jobs. There are only 475 women in the so-called hard sea trades, shipboard jobs that range from sonar operators and electricians to cooks and carpenters.

The navy surveyed the women in the sea trades and discovered that 27 per cent were interested in submarine service.

The Canadian Forces rejected the idea of trying to make one of the crews of the four new Victoria subs all-female because it would take too long.

Posts: 111 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2001  |  IP: Logged
Veteran Member
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posted 18 March 2021 01:04     Profile for McG   Email McG     Send New Private Message     Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote
Gender equality in the military is 'just talk'
Scathing report: Intolerance toward women 'runs deep in the Forces'
(from the National Post Online, 17 Mar 01)
Mike Blanchfield, Ottawa Citizen

Despite a scathing report yesterday on intolerance to women in the Canadian Forces, a senior member of the military's last remaining male bastion says too much of a fuss is being made over resistance to women in the ranks.

Even when the news came that women will now be allowed to serve on Canadian submarines, the last all-male units in the Canadian Forces, submariners reacted with a shrug, says Commander Michael Williamson.

"A lot of them said: 'We knew it was coming.' Some of them said: 'Yeah, whatever, let's just get on with our job,' " Cmdr. Williamson said in an interview from the English coastal town of Barrow-In-Verness, where he is leading the training of crews for three new Victoria-class submarines Canada is acquiring from Britain.

"In five years, they're going to look back and say: 'Yeah whatever, what was all the fuss about?' "

However the report, released yesterday by an advisor to Art Eggleton, the Defence Minister, suggests that intolerance runs deep in the Forces, especially toward women.

"Insensitivity, ignorance and biases" have marred attempts to integrate more women and visible minorities into the Forces, says the report by Captain (ret.) Sandra Perron, the minister's special advisor on gender issues, who was appointed to report on the success of gender issues in the Forces.

Capt. Perron, who travelled the country to get a broad spectrum of views on the integration process, said she heard some disturbing sentiments.

She said much of the talk about gender and minority integration in the Forces is just that -- talk.

As one Army instructor told her: "Real Canadians don't want anything to do with this social re-engineering b.s."

"The time has come for results," Capt. Perron said yesterday. "These fears need to be addressed. It's an attitude we're seeing across the Canadian Forces. And until that's addressed, progress is going to be very, very slow."

Capt. Perron, the Army's first female infantry officer, came into the public eye in 1992 when a disturbing photograph was published showing her tied to a tree and blindfolded for a mock execution as part of a hazing ritual.

She resigned from the Forces five years ago and now works for General Motors in Montreal.

Capt. Perron said she is encouraged by the commitment from many top officers, including General Maurice Baril, the chief of the defence staff.

"Neanderthal behaviour is not going to be acceptable," Mr. Eggleton said of the report. "People either change their behaviour or they get another job."

"Attitudes don't change overnight. Culture takes some time to change. But we can insist upon good professional behaviour."

Cmdr. Williamson acknowledged the integration of women on submarines will be challenging, but said military men realize they have no choice in the matter.

"I said, 'Chaps, it's the law: gender equality; we obey the law.' That's what we do in the military. We follow government direction, government policy, and we do the best we can and get on with the job."

The Canadian Human Rights Commission ordered the military 12 years ago to fully integrate women into all aspects of the military, but it exempted submarines because of the close quarters on Canada's old Oberon class of submarines. That changed when Canada bought four larger, slightly used Victoria-class submarines from Britain.

Canada took possession of its first sub last fall, but three more remain at the shipyards of British Aerospace where Cmdr. Williamson has been stationed for the past three years.

He is overseeing the process of taking the submarines out of mothballs and training the Canadian sailors -- all men, so far -- who will operate the new boats. The final vessel is to be delivered by the middle of next year, around the same time the first women could be coming on board.

Cmdr. Williamson, an 18-year veteran, believes women swill be accepted as equals.

"It's a different Navy than it was 15 years ago. As society in general has become more accepting, I think these guys are. There's no doubt the women can do the job physically and technically. It's just a question of getting over old mores, or habits," he said.

"[Submariners] get on with the job," he adds, "whether it's in the face of adversity, in the face of challenge . . . and if they're told to accept women in women in submarines, they'll go: 'Right oh; grumble, grumble,' ... and they'll get on with it.' "

[ 18-03-2001: Message edited by: McG ]

Posts: 111 | From: London | Registered: Jan 2001  |  IP: Logged

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