Halifax International Security Forum: Attempts to recruit women for aggression and war will fail


The Sunday November 24 session of the Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) is on “Security Solutions, Women’s Contributions,” with the speakers depicted in this screenshot:

The Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) is promoting a role for women in upholding peace and security that is informed by U.S. imperialism and the aggressive NATO alliance. This so-called security is based on the destruction of countries that will not submit to U.S. imperialist dictate. In the ensuing chaos and violence of NATO interventions and occupations, it is women and children who are the first victims.

The conference is being publicly opposed by the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace amongst other women activists. This session is one of just six out of 36 which is open to selected media and broadcast on CPAC. This indicates that its aim is propaganda aimed to influence public opinion that NATO is “progressive” and “inclusive.”

In October, for the first time since 2009, two women were appointed to the HISF board of directors: Tammy Harris, Former Deputy Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force, Canadian Armed Forces, and Cindy McCain, head of the McCain Institute, Washington, DC and Sedona, Arizona. The late U.S. Senator John McCain, the warmonger and advocate of American exceptionalism after whom the institute is named, had longstanding ties with the HISF. The institute is funded by many arms and energy monopolies as well as the government of the feudal kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The genesis of this recruitment of women occurred two years ago. TML Weekly reported at the time how on November 18, 2017, in the midst of the Halifax Security Forum, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced that Canadian Clare Hutchinson would become NATO’s new Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security.

Hutchinson was previously a Gender Adviser at the United Nations in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. She was deployed with the UN Interim Force in Lebanon from July 2012 to December 2013 and the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo October 2004 to December 2007.

Both Hutchinson and Stoltenberg present the issue of women in the military as upholding a decontextualized abstract ideal of empowerment, gender equality and opportunity for women. The content of a given military mission, whose aims it serves and whether it is just and upholds peace, national sovereignty and rule of international law, or whether it is committing war crimes are not to be discussed.

For example, at a February 2016 ceremony for 125 Indian women police officers stationed with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, Hutchinson said:

“What we’re doing with the military and the police is breaking down the perception that this is a male domain and that women can’t be involved. We know that the obstacles aren’t that it’s too dangerous or that they don’t want to travel or leave their children. Those aren’t the most prevailing obstacles; it’s mainly that they’re not aware of opportunities.”

Hutchinson emphasized that to increase the presence of women in peace operations, the UN relies on its Member States to recruit them at the country level. To support the effort, she said the UN had helped train over 555 female police officers in five countries, leading to 174 additional women being deployed in 2015.

“What comes out as very striking to me when you talk to women in the services, the first thing they say is that they’re a police officer, not a woman. So they’re not women police officers, they’re police officers who are women. And I think that’s very important for us to remember,” she noted.

Stoltenberg said of the appointment, “empowering women is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do: it makes countries safer and more stable. NATO is determined to make a difference, including through our training and operations – for example, by deploying gender advisers to local communities in Afghanistan. We also aim to raise the profile of women at all levels within the Alliance.

“We still need to do more, but for NATO, peace and security are not just a man’s world.

“I thank Canada for its strong commitment to women, peace and security, and I look forward to welcoming Ms Hutchinson to NATO Headquarters soon.”

The 2018 HISF kicked off with a secret, “off the record”, exclusive session ironically called “Inclusive Security: Winning With Women.” The panel featured retired U.S. General John Allen; Canadian Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance; Smadar Perry, senior middle east editor of Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth (founded in 1939 in Mandatory Palestine and for many years the largest newspaper in Israel by sales and circulation); and Amira Yahyaoui, founder and executive director of Center 247, a security and defence think tank in Tunisia.

In September 2018, the HISF launched a Peace With Women Fellowship Program. It is a program of indoctrination, not academic study. Each year, selected woman military officers from the NATO bloc are taken on an “executive tour” of the U.S. and Canada enroute to the Halifax conference. The press release announcing the program stated:

“Participants will visit Washington DC, Silicon Valley, Toronto and Waterloo, and Ottawa before concluding the program in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Fellows will meet with government, military, and thought leaders as they travel through the political and technological capitals of the United States and Canada to deepen their understanding of American and Canadian strategic challenges, as well as the cutting-edge technologies transforming the realities of national security.”

Presumably this is what is meant by NATO of “raising the profile (of women) at all levels within the Alliance.”

Both Hutchinson and Stoltenberg present the issue of women in the military as upholding a decontextualized abstract ideal of empowerment, gender equality and opportunity for women. The content of a given military mission, whose aims it serves and whether it is just and upholds peace, national sovereignty and rule of international law, or whether it is committing war crimes are not to be discussed.

Those selected in 2019 are:

  • Tracy Onufer, Chief of Staff, Special Operations Command South, U.S. Air Force
  • Katherine Graef, Logistics Director, Special Operations Command Africa, U.S. Special Operations Command
  • Debra Lovette. Director, Human Capital, Joint Force Space Component Command,
  • Jill Marrack, CAF Special Advisor to Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, Canadian Armed Forces
  • Lysane Martel, Director, RCAF Professional Development, 2nd Canadian Air Division, Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Fiona Shepherd, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Logistics Operations and Plans, British Royal Navy
  • Lale Bartoschek, Chief of Branch Recruitment, Federal Ministry of Defence, German Armed Forces
  • Nicole Schilling, Vice President, Federal Office of Bundeswehr Personnel Management, German Armed Forces
  • Elanor Boekholt-O’Sullivan Commander, Cyber Defence Force, Netherlands Armed Forces
  • Henri Schricke, Head of Joint International Affairs, French Forces Joint Staff, France
  • Solène Le Floch, Human Resource Manager for Air Crews, 705th Airbase, French Air Force
  • Solveig Krey, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Operations Section, Defence Staff Norway, Norwegian Armed Forces
  • Joana Polekauskienė, Senior Instructor, General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, Lithuanian Armed Forces
  • Rachel Durbin, Director, Future Force Lifecycle Engineering, Navy Capability Division, Royal Australian Navy, Australia
  • Rose King, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Joint Forces New Zealand, New Zealand Defence Force
  • Lisa Ferris, Director, Defence Legal Services, New Zealand Army

All are participating in the Halifax conference.

Around the same time that the HISF began pushing the recruitment of women, the Trudeau government launched its “Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations” with which it has given itself the dishonourable task to convince women – who are in the front ranks of the opposition to aggression and war – to consider the “equal opportunity” offered to be recruited as soldiers or police officers for the new more aggressive “peacekeeping” that takes place under UN auspices today. This is what it calls empowering women. This is criminal indeed.

Hutchinson’s appointment was an attempt by NATO to give Canada credit for its nefarious activities and bolster its attempts to make war and aggression “progressive.”

Canada has blood on its hands whether in Korea, Yugoslavia, Libya, Ukraine, Haiti and Afghanistan and now it is deploying into Eastern Europe to threaten Russia and suppress opposition to NATO’s aggressive role in Latvia, Ukraine and other European countries.

That it is seeking to absolve itself of its crimes by presenting itself as the biggest defender of women and peace fools no one. Women’s empowerment lies in fighting for their own rights and the rights of all. Women, especially working class women, are in the front ranks of all the fights for rights and against war.

Trying to hide this by promoting women who act as instruments of imperialism – whether openly or under cover of one or another version of its phoney “human rights” agenda – shows that the Halifax International Security Forum and the Trudeau government’s notion of empowerment is bound up with aggression and war and on this basis is fraudulent to the extreme.


As its response to an outpouring of protests, the HISF suddenly added two women to its panel on November 23. They are the full-time director of the program, Paz Magat, and Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of National Defence, Public Affairs. The HISF website states that Magat “settled in the United States when her family fled the Philippines on the eve of the People Power Revolution. The majority of her career has been spent in the non-profit sector. Her focus on the fields of international education, conflict management, and social change has taken her to 38 countries and counting.” The People Power Revolution was a series of popular demonstrations in the Philippines against the repressive regime of Ferdinand Marcos, head of the U.S. client state, from February 22–25, 1986. There was a sustained campaign of civil resistance against regime violence and electoral fraud.

With regard to Thomas, David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen reported that she was involved in a DND whitewash of the now infamous December 2017 Canadian Forces “Team Canada” tour to Latvia and Greece, in which a flight attendant was allegedly abused. (“Sajjan, Deputy Minister dig a deeper hole for themselves on $337,000 ‘party flight’, ” David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen, November 13, 2018)

With a file from TML Weekly, December 2, 2017 – No. 39 and TML Weekly, November 23, 2019. Screenshot courtesy of the Halifax Examiner and El Jones

A scene from last year’s protest in Halifax against the war conference | Simon de Vet, nsadvocate.org

1 Comment

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One response to “Halifax International Security Forum: Attempts to recruit women for aggression and war will fail

  1. Pingback: NATO’s Young Professionals Program | Tony Seed's Weblog

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