FILE - Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan visited Ukraine in February 2019 as part of Canada's training mission Operation UNIFIER. (2nd Canadian Division)

Meet the trailblazing female Canadian general bound for Iraq


In 1986, Jennie Carignan was a bored teenager looking to do something challenging with her life.

So she decided to join the Canadian Armed Forces and enroll at the Royal Military College of Canada. She was among the first women to enter the Combat Engineer trade after all military occupations were opened to women in 1989.

Today, Maj.-Gen. Carignan is one of the highest-ranking women in the Canadian military and is the first and only woman from a combat arms trade to rise to the rank of general.

And in June of this year, Carignan who commanded 5 Combat Engineer Regiment and led a task force of engineers in Kandahar in 2009-2010 at the height of the Taliban insurgency in the restive Afghan province, smashed through another glass ceiling.

She was appointed to lead the NATO mission in Iraq and promoted to the rank of major-general.

“For me it’s a great honour and a privilege to be able to go out and do this,” Carignan told Radio Canada International in a phone interview from Kingston, where she’s undergoing training ahead of deploying to Iraq this fall.

“That’s why we join the military.”

(click to listen to the full interview with Maj.-Gen. Jennie Carignan)


Lt.-Col. Jennie Carignan, commanding officer of the Engineer Regiment of Canada’s Task Force Kandahar, speaks to area resident Yar Mohammad about a retaining wall project near his village along the Tarnak River in the Dand Distrct of Kandahar province on August 12, 2010. Carignan figures she covered 10,000 km of bomb-riddled, dusty roads in Afghanistan as a combat engineer. (Dene Moore/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Carignan, who will be taking over from another Canadian, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, will command about 580 NATO trainers on the ground in Iraq, including the Canadian contingent of about 250 personnel.

Carignan, who currently commands the 2nd Canadian Division and Joint Task Force East in her native province of Quebec, said she never thought that she’d be making Canadian and NATO military history.

“I’ve basically done things one day at a time, going after one challenge at a time, making sure that I did the best I can,” the mother of four said.

Carignan’s experience as a frontline commander in Afghanistan and a former chief of staff of the army, and a reputation of a tough-as-nails leader will come in very handy in Iraq.

The NATO Mission Iraq (NMI) is a non-combat training and capacity-building mission aimed at building up Iraqi national forces to prevent the re-emergence of groups such as ISIS or al-Qaeda.

The trainers focus on educating Iraqi military instructors, who in turn train their own forces in bomb disposal, armoured vehicle maintenance, civilian-military planning and medical care.

The alliance also advises the Iraqi defence ministry on institutional reform.

Canada maintains a separate contingent of special forces troops in northern Iraq, who advise and assist local security forces in counter-terrorism operations against pockets of Islamic State extremists. While they’ve been defeated on the battlefield, Islamic State is still conducting a guerrilla-style campaign of terror and hit-and-run attacks.

Carignan said she’s been doing a lot of studying to learn about Iraq’s history and culture, and the region’s complex political context.

‘We need female and male warriors’

Brig.-Gen. Jennie Carignan speaks with Ukrainian soldiers being trained by members of the Canadian Armed Forces as part of Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine. (2nd Canadian Division)

Despite the challenges the Canadian military has faced in integrating women and stamping out sexual misconduct in the ranks, Carignan said her experience has convinced her of the advantages of gender-integrated fighting forces.

“We need female and male warriors, we need female and male peacekeepers, we need male and female in everything we do,” Carignan said. “And I think the proof is in the pudding basically. We all know that nations who have male and female participation in all spheres of society are more successful, are more stable, are more prosperous.”

Carignan will begin her deployment in Iraq in mid-November.

Despite the upcoming year-long separation, she has full support of her children, Carignan said.

“They are proud of what their mom is doing, they understand that I’m happy in what I do, that I like what I do, that I enjoy my job,” Carignan said.

In the meantime, Carignan said she tries to squeeze in a bit of quality time with her family and to unwind whenever she can.

“I do a lot of outdoors camping, kayaking and hiking,” Carignan said. “I like arts, music, I’m a flamenco dancer. I get out there and I do other stuff that is not related to the military and I think that helps to take a little bit of a break and come up with ideas when you are exposed to subjects that are completely unrelated to the military.”

With files from Murray Brewster of CBC News

Categories: Politics, Society
Tags: , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *