Women in the Canadian Military
Class Debate and Interview with a Female Canadian Forces Member or Veteran
To allow students to gain a greater understanding of the achievements and sacrifices of women who have served in the Canadian military over the years.
Students will be expected to:
- share, in the form of an organized class debate, their opinions and viewpoints on women’s contributions in the Canadian military.
- brainstorm questions and pose them to a female Canadian Forces member or Veteran to learn more about her experiences and personal reflections of her service.
- learn, through first-hand accounts, some of the specific achievements and sacrifices women have made during their military duties.
- create a scrapbook recording the stories of the female Canadian Forces member or Veteran.
This activity is aimed at youth aged 12 to 18 years.
Required Class Resources
- Historical sheet: Canada Remembers Women in the Canadian Military
- Blackboard or flip chart (with chalk/markers)
- A female Canadian Forces member or Veteran guest speaker
[To find a speaker, contact the Speakers Bureau of the Dominion Institute’s Memory Project, contact your local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion or check with a nearby Canadian Forces Military Family Resource Centre.]
Optional Class Resources
- Women at War historical sheet
- My Grandmother’s Wartime Diary
- Veterans Affairs Canada’s “Remembrance” Web section
- Video camera or tape recorder
Sequence of Activities and Anticipated Time Frame
Background (10 minutes)
Brainstorm a list or create a thought web, showing the various ways Canadian women supported their country during the war years. The ideas generated may include examples of things women did both on the home front and in the military. Let the students know that this lesson will focus on the roles Canadian women in uniform played over the years.
Activity One: Debate on the Nature and Significance of Women’s Roles in Canada’s Military (Approximately 50 minutes total)
This activity will familiarize students with what a class debate is and how one is held, as they present and hear arguments on issues pertaining to women serving in Canada’s military
Step 1 –Getting Started (15 minutes)
Have students review the historical sheet Canada Remembers Women in the Canadian Military (if time allows you may wish to supply the students with some of the optional class resources, as well). Then discuss what they have just learned.
- What are some of the jobs performed by women during the war years?
- What new things did you learn from reading this material?
- What are some of the questions that you have after reading this?
Step 2 – How to Debate (5 minutes)
Many of your students may not be familiar with what a formal debate is, so take some time to explain how one is held. Stress that background research is usually done on the topic before a debate and that preparation notes are to be made to record pertinent points to be addressed during the debate. It is also important that participants are able to justify the positions they are arguing.
Possible debate points:
- The contributions women in the military have made over the years have been significant and have helped accelerate the advancement of women’s rights in Canadian society.
- Women should have been allowed to serve in any and all military roles during the war years.
- Women would have better contributed to Canada’s war years efforts by working on the home front in factories or on farms rather than by joining the military.
- In contrast to many countries, the women of today’s Canadian Forces can serve in all roles, including active combat roles. Are you for or against this approach?
Step 3 – Preparing for Debate (15 minutes)
Divide the class into two sides and choose the question(s) upon which the debate will be based. Have students take 10 minutes to build on the previous class brainstorming activities on the subject. They can use the historical sheets and other resources to help research and organize debate arguments to support their view.
Step 4 – Debate (25 minutes)
Set up the classroom so the students who are “for” women being key contributors to the military are on one side and those who are “against” the idea are on the other side. Commence the debate by reviewing the rules and procedures for the debate.
During and after the debate, have the official recorder for each side summarize their points and arguments on chart paper to be later displayed in the class as a record of what happened.
Activity Two: Classroom interview with a female Canadian Forces member or Veteran (Approximately 75 minutes total)
This activity will help students gain a personal perspective about women’s experiences while serving in uniform. It will allow them to meet a female Canadian Forces member or Veteran and learn about her personal reflections.
Step 1 – Getting Ready
Before you begin this activity, determine who will be invited to visit the class and share her experiences in uniform. To find female Veteran speakers, you can contact the Speakers Bureau of the Dominion Institute or the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. If you, or the students in your class, would prefer to hear a still-serving female member of the Canadian Forces, the Dominion Institute could perhaps help supply an appropriate speaker, as could a Canadian Forces Military Family Resource Centre in your area.
Step 2 – Class Questions (10 minutes)
Students may work in pairs for this project. As a class, brainstorm some of the questions that they would like to ask the female Canadian Forces member or Veteran. Stress the fact that the students are to try to hear and record her personal story.
Step 3 – The Interview (20 minutes)
The next step is to have the guest speaker come visit and address the class. Bear in mind that often the best stories come when the guest speakers have the opportunity to go in their own direction and speak about what means the most to them, so allow flexibility in the nature of the interview. A member of each student group will record the guest speaker’s memories and recollections of her service. It would also be useful to photograph the guest speaker and record her reflections on video or audiotape to preserve her stories.
Step 4 – Written Report and Presentations (45 minutes)
In order for the students to have the opportunity to synthesize the information they have heard from the guest speaker and the background information on the general topic of women in the military, each group in the class will prepare a brief written or poster presentation. The students will then share their findings with the class.
Closing – Creating a Scrapbook
As a means to showcase and preserve what the students have learned about Canada’s female Veterans or members of the Canadian Forces, assemble a scrapbook of interview excerpts, pictures, drawings, and other findings. A copy could be sent to the guest speaker with a thank you note. This scrapbook could also be given to the school library for other students to learn from and enjoy. Any video or audiotape made of the guest speaker’s visit should be labelled and preserved for the reference of other students and the community as a whole. Note: Prior permission to record the interview should be obtained from the interviewee.
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