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Celebrating excellence: Congratulations to Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill, 31st Vimy Award laureate!

For the past 30 years, the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute has awarded each year the Vimy Award to exceptional Canadians to recognize their efforts in the quest for peace and democratic values. The 2023 Vimy Award goes to Jacqueline O’Neill, Canada's Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security for her remarkable contribution to democracy, security and defence!

In this article, we dive into the award’s significance. We also showcase the Ambassador’s pivotal role as a thought leader driving progress for the women, peace, and security agenda within diverse organizations for Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

31st Vimy Gala

The award was handed out during the 31st Vimy Gala. Among the many distinguished guests present on November 8, 2023, Jacqueline O’Neill stood as the main luminary of the evening. As Lieutenant-General (ret’d) Guy Thibault, Chairman of the CDA Institute, aptly noted, "Ambassador O'Neill represents the very best of Canada on the world stage. Her leadership in promoting the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in peacemaking, conflict prevention, and peacebuilding efforts around the globe is most worthy of recognition as the 2023 Vimy Award Laureate."

Ambassador O'Neill receiving the Vimy Award from Minister Blair.
Credit: Sarah Bradley @ iShootEvents

Many counterparts and colleagues from around the globe supported her nomination by highlighting her invaluable work. They all shared a common thread, recognizing her for not just representing Canada in efforts to advance Women, Peace, and Security, but also for her inclusive and engaging leadership. Ambassador O’Neill, on her side, took this opportunity to send praises back to women peacebuilders.

“This award is a remarkable recognition of the importance of the Women, Peace and Security agenda, she said. It has my name but was earned by all who show that women are not only victims of war and violence, but powerful forces. Their leadership and perspectives are essential to lasting peace and strong democracies.”

An impactful career

A graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the University of Alberta, Jacqueline O’Neill has worked in over 40 countries with many international organizations, including NATO and the UN. Here’s a glimpse of her achievements.

Ambassador O’Neill meets with members of the Indonesian Police Peacekeeping Training Center in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 2023

She plays a pivotal role in formulating national strategies and policy frameworks. Notably, her expertise has been instrumental in the development and implementation of Canada's national action plans addressing women, peace, and security, seeking always to center the voices of women in communities most directly affected by violent conflict. In her role as Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace, and Security, she advises Ministers on effective implementation of commitments by the Government of Canada in this area of work.

As a passionate insider on contemporary security issues, she has advocated for and advises on policies and approaches to address issues related to gender-based violence, disinformation, online harm, and the relationship between gender, climate change, and security.

Ambassador O’Neill and Canada’s Special Representative for Afghanistan meet with Afghan women leaders, in Ottawa, January 2023

Along with fellow Vimy award recipient former Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, she helped found the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative. While President of the Institute for Inclusive Security, Ambassador O’Neill directly supported coalitions of women leaders in Colombia, South Sudan, Sudan, Pakistan, and beyond. Through this work, she advocated for women’s meaningful inclusion in peace negotiations, security forces, national political dialogues, and policy making. Her career also encompasses service at the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan and the Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum.

A life’s mission

Ambassador O’Neill meets young Rohingya women leaders for peace in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, August 2022

Ambassador O’Neill’s career stands as a beacon of dedication to Canadian democracy, security, and defence. However, her work for the women, peace, and security agenda isn’t done yet and she is ready to take on many more challenges!“We need to keep transforming our systems and processes so that the meaningful inclusion of women in all our diversity becomes part of the DNA of our institutions”, she concludes.

Through relentless advocacy for women's rights, she is encouraging the next generation of leaders to prioritize inclusivity, fostering progress internationally.

More info about the role of Canada’s Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security:

Women, peace and security (

More info about the Vimy Award:

Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill 2023 Vimy Award Laureate – CDA Institute

Follow Ambassador O’Neill and the Women, Peace and Security accounts on X (Twitter):

Ambassador Jacqueline O’Neill’s X (Twitter) account

Women, Peace and Security’s X (Twitter) account

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