Brigadier-General (BGen) Sheila Hellstrom began her career in the CAF in 1954. Unable to attend the Royal Military College due to her gender, she enrolled in the Royal Canadian Air Force University Reserve Training Program at Mount Allison University. Upon graduation in 1956, she was promoted to Flying Officer and was able to join the Regular Force—three years behind her male peers.

She faced an uphill battle in her fight for equality and won several victories for the advancement of women’s rights within the CAF. In 1973, she became the first military woman to attend the Canadian Forces Staff College. In 1987, she became the first woman to reach the rank of BGen within the CAF.

BGen Hellstrom continued as a champion of woman’s rights as Director of Women Personnel, Director General of Personnel, and the chair of the Committee on Women in NATO forces in 1989. After retirement in 1990, she consulted for the military on gender integration and was on the Minister of Defence’s Monitoring Committee on Change until 1994.

Throughout her career and beyond it, BGen Hellstrom worked towards an inclusive environment within the CAF. For her trailblazing work in the promotion of women’s progress and inclusion within the military, 5th Canadian Division Support Group has celebrated her legacy through the ‘BGen Sheila Hellstrom Memorial Award for Diversity and Inclusion’, annually since June 29, 2022.

This International’s Women’s Month, we pay respect to BGen Hellstrom courage and dedication in promoting diversity in the CAF.