Lisa Nilsson served in the Canadian Forces for 20 and a half years, including 18 and a half years in the navy, before being medically discharged three years ago.
She wears her medals proudly on Remembrance Day but says she feels a disconnect between the service she provided for Canadians and how she’s recognized.
“I’ve been to ceremonies and, you know, they thank my husband for his service and say to me, ‘Oh it must have been hard for you being a stay at home mom.’ And it’s like no, no, no, I’m the one that’s in, my husband was a stay at home,” she said.
Nilsson was injured during her service in the navy and then further aggravated a back injury while playing wheelchair basketball at the Warrior Games in Tampa, Florida.
She now uses a cane and a wheelchair to get around.
“If I had the proper treatment when I first got hurt I wouldn’t be as bad as I am now,” she told CHEK News.
She says her care has been a struggle with Veterans Affairs Canada, adding it would be different if she was a man.
“A lot of our injuries are negated by, you know, well we’re more hormonal, we’re more emotional, we’re more this and that, and it’s oh it’s their mental health,” said Nilsson. “I’ve known another veteran, a male veteran, that has similar injuries as me and he was looked at immediately.”
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North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is also the NDP Veterans Affairs critic and raised the issue this week in the House of Commons.
“Too often they feel invisible and diminished when they should feel acknowledged and respected for their service. This must change,” she said. “Will the minister commit today to ensuring the participation of women veterans in Remembrance Day commemoration this year?”
The minister said that would always be a priority.
“It’s our government’s commitment, and I can assure you on behalf of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defence, that women will always participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies and their participation is a must,” replied Parliamentary Secretary Randeep Sarai.
Women have a long and important history in the Canadian Armed Forces spanning many wars in many different roles, but to this day they still fight for the same recognition as men.
“In Ottawa, we’re doing a study on women veterans and what we’ve heard again and again is that they do feel invisible, so I think we just need to find a way to address this and Remembrance Day is an important time to remember all the people who are serving and have served,” Blaney told CHEK News Friday.
“We do work as hard as our male counterparts and we do deserve to be recognized for our services and our contributions and to be treated equally and equitably as our male counterparts,” added Nilsson.