Understanding cultural nuances saves lives in military conflicts

Article / September 28, 2017 / Project number: 17-0276

By Édouard Dufour, Adsum newspaper

Twentynine Palms, California — Lieutenant-Commander Chantal Desormeaux, Gender Advisor (GENAD), was deployed to California for the joint exercise Large Scale 17. Her role was to determine the consequences that various action plans have on distinctive groups during military operations.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) sometimes operate in cultural communities that have complex customs and realities. The role of GENADs is to take note of the effects that military interventions can have on the lives of members of the various groups that make up these communities. During the planning and conduct of military operations, GENADs are responsible for taking into account not only the differences between the sexes, but also specific features such as age, education, language, geographic location, culture and income.

LCdr Desormeaux gave the example of an intercepted vehicle holding several women tied up and in bad shape in the back. “The advisors will be able to co‑ordinate handing the women over to a team of nurses and to give them first aid and psychological assistance,” she illustrated. “Everything is not black or white. The army is allowed to notice that its actions have moral consequences on the ground,” she added.

International receptiveness

The international community seems to be taking a growing interest in the role of GENADs. When LCdr Desormeaux was trained for the position in Sweden, candidate students from approximately 20 countries were there. In Canada, 10 or so military members currently hold this qualification, issued by a NATO-certified training centre.

For years now, 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (5 CMBG) has been taking the differences between distinctive groups into account. However, this is the first time that a trade associated with the issue has officially entered its ranks during an international exercise. LCdr Desormeaux especially noted the “involvement and support” of Colonel Stephane Boivin, 5 CMBG Commander, in promoting the GENAD mission of equality.

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