Dr. Karen Breeck
Photo: courtesy of Captain Amanda Kok
For more than three decades, Major (Retired) Dr. Karen Breeck has been advocating for equitable medical research, care and benefits for military women and men (serving and retired/released).
After a 20-year apolitical career in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), Dr. Breeck learned how to leverage political and public discourse to raise awareness of the health inequities faced by military women in and out of uniform, by volunteering at the municipal, provincial and federal political levels.
A grassroots political advocate
In May 2019, Dr. Breeck’s advocacy brought her to Parliament Hill. Appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which has been studying the treatment of women in the Department of National Defence (DND), she outlined the need for systemic military culture change. Later that year, Dr. Breeck contributed to a Senate report entitled Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Canadian Armed Forces detailing 30 evidence-based recommendations on how to address systemic health inequities.
After the CAF-DND sexual misconduct class action settlement in November 2019, Dr. Breeck’s political advocacy interests widened to the encouragement of a sex- and gender-based analysis for all defence-related health programming including, but not limited to, reproductive health.
“By continuously raising awareness and speaking on behalf of those who are systemically silenced, Dr. Breeck opens blinds and sheds light on the many health issues and inequities facing our military.” – Dr. Clover Hemans, Federation of Medical Women of Canada
Meeting unmet health needs of military women
Dr. Breeck has championed equitable health outcomes throughout her career. In 2000, she pursued a master of health sciences in occupational health at the University of Toronto with a diploma in women’s studies. As part of her degree, she completed a research project identifying many sex-specific operational medical needs for female CAF pilots.
In 2005, Dr. Breeck served as president of the Federation of Medical Women of Canada (FMWC), a national organization dedicated to women’s health and leadership. She is an active member of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada and the FMWC Women Peace and Security Committee. In 2020 she was recognized by Esprit de Corps magazine as one of the “Top 20 Women in Defence.”
Dr. Breeck presently co-chairs the Women Veterans Research and Engagement Network, which helps ensure the voices of female veterans are included in all political decisions that affect them.
Dr. Karen Breeck is receiving the Sir Charles Tupper Award for Political Advocacy in recognition of her leadership, commitment and dedication in advancing CMA goals and policies through grassroots advocacy.