Lt.-Col. Rhonda Matthews leading cultural change in Canadian Forces

While allegations of misconduct at the highest level of the Canadian Armed Forces are swirling, the scandal involving more than a dozen male officers is creating an opportunity to make the country’s military more inclusive.

One of the senior officers leading the cultural shift is Lt.-Col. Rhonda Matthews, who served as this year’s parade commander at the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

For Matthews, who has served in the Reserves for 25 years, her role at the Tattoo is something she’s been looking forward to her entire career.

“I have seen more of the world than I ever thought possible because of my career in the military,” she said.

Hailing from Corner Brook, N.L., Matthews spent time deployed in Afghanistan. That’s in addition to her work as part of a United Nations training team helping Rwanda rebuild after the 1994 genocide.

But it was earlier this month that Matthews received her highest honour when she was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. The historic promotion saw Matthews become the first woman to lead the 36th Canadian Brigade Group of the Princess Louise Fusiliers.

“Up until now it's been a white male-dominated field,” she said. “Culture change is more than just being in the room. Culture change is having that voice.”

Throughout her career, Matthews has heard from women -- both in and out of uniform -- who couldn’t believe she was able to break the mould in diversifying the military.

“I often say to them: ‘You have more strength than you know. You can do more than you think you can.’”

The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo began in 1979. Meant to be a one-time show, the Tattoo became an annual event honouring the Canadian Armed Forces.

This year’s event runs through July 2 at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre, with performances from trampoline group The Flying Grandpas and the German Bicycle Team.