Jennie Carignan appointed as first woman in Canadian military’s top job

Photo: Canadian Post

In a historic move, the Canadian government named Lt. Gen. Jennie Carignan as the new chief of defence staff on Wednesday, making her the first woman to hold the military’s top position.

Carignan, currently the military’s chief of professional conduct and culture, was appointed to address the sexual misconduct crisis that led to the resignation of several high-ranking leaders in 2021. This scandal prompted a critical report by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, which recommended significant changes to the Armed Forces’ culture. Carignan has been a leading figure in these reform efforts, frequently updating the public on the progress of implementing Arbour’s recommendations.

Joining the military in 1986, Carignan has commanded combat engineer regiments and led flood response efforts in Quebec. In 2008, she became the first woman to lead a combat force in the Canadian military. Her distinguished service includes receiving the Meritorious Service Medal and the Governor General’s Order of Military Merit. Her deployments have spanned Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Syria, and she led a yearlong NATO mission in Iraq, which concluded in late 2020.

Carignan’s official biography also highlights her family, noting that she has four children, two of whom serve in the Armed Forces.

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, praised Carignan’s appointment as “fantastic news,” especially since it comes 35 years after women were first allowed to serve in combat roles in the Armed Forces. However, she cautioned that there might be pushback or resistance, particularly because the appointment was made by the Liberal government. “A lot of people have seen and perceived the Trudeau government efforts toward inclusivity and gender parity as performative,” Duval-Lantoine said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking in Montreal on Wednesday, emphasized the significance of Carignan’s appointment. “Particularly in these moments of complicated geopolitics and increased threats, particularly to our Arctic,” he stated.

Additionally, Lt. Gen. Frances Allen, the first woman to be named vice-chief of the defence staff, plans to retire this year. Her successor will be named during a change-of-command ceremony in early August.