Sisters In Arms

Sisters In Arms

Release date:


Running time:

48.5 minutes


Available on DVD

Closed Captioned:


Availability in North America:

Available in Canada

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  • Audience level:
  • Elementary School
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There are only ten countries in the world that allow women to fight in ground combat, and Canada is one of them. The mission in Afghanistan marks the first time in Canadian history that women soldiers are fighting on the frontlines.

Sisters In Arms is a one-hour documentary that tells the story of three remarkable women who have chosen the most difficult and dangerous military professions and are facing combat on the battle fronts of Afghanistan. Corporal Katie Hodges is an infantry solider, Corporal Tamar Freeman is a medic; and Master Corporal Kimberly Ashton is a combat engineer who leaves behind three young girls at home in Canada.

Who are these women and how did they get there? Veterans of the combat trades including Brigadier General Chris Whitecross, one of Canada's highest-ranking woman in the military and Lieutenant Colonel Anne Reiffenstein, the first female artillery officer, talk about their decisions for careers in the military and the roles of women over the years. The mothers, fathers and sisters of the three women featuring openly discuss their fears, as they bravely support their loved ones.

In Canada, the number of women joining the combat trades has risen gradually for almost two decades, attrition remains an issue, with significantly higher rates of women leaving their military careers than men. Military culture remains a barrier, and today, only two percent (about 250 out of 14,000) of soldiers in the combat trades are women.

Using video diaries filmed by the soldiers in Afghanistan and personal interviews, Sisters In Arms tells their stories, from the frontline from a uniquely female perspective, challenging our perception of what constitutes a soldier.

"Reconciling the human capacity for love with our unending ability to kill with purpose is a continuing preoccupation for our species, and one that Sisters in Arms probes with delicate restraint as it shows us women as mothers and life-givers, as well as women as lethal weapons."
     - Katherine Monk


In 2004 my sister Tamar joined the Canadian Forces, and just over a year into her full-time military career, learned she would be heading to Afghanistan.

My family was terrified; we never imagined that this petite woman would be sent to one of the more dangerous regions in the world. As a combat medic Tamar would experience frontline duty. I was torn by my love for my sister and distaste for a career that put her life in great danger. But Tamar was committed and determined; she was looking forward to her chance for deployment.

Confronted by the reality of my sister taking up arms, I picked up a camera and documented the reactions of family, friends and strangers. Tamar also had a camera, and her stories, revealed in video diaries, photos, email updates and phone calls presented a startling reality of life on the frontlines.

Canada has traditionally taken a peacekeeping role in a number of conflicts around the world. In 2001 that role changed and Canadian combat troops were sent to fight in Afghanistan. Today Canada plays a major role in southern Afghanistan with over 2500 troops based in Kandahar. With a growing demand for troops and a mandate to meet the Human Rights Commission imposed quotas, the military expanded the role for women in combat and, for the first time in Canadian history, women have been fighting on the frontlines.

I wanted to know who these women were and why they had chosen such a difficult career path.

Upon her return, Tamar reluctantly agreed to be filmed as she re-adjusted to "normal" life. It was a hard time for her, she had been under fire and witnessed horrific violence and death, but she gave me unlimited access to document her stories and insightful reflections.

I knew that her experiences and those of other female soldiers provided a perspective that had yet to be explored.

Tamar's stories are the inspiration for Sisters In Arms.

Final Note
It is my hope that this film will provide audiences with a personal connection to these women; develop a new understanding of the people who choose to serve their country in this way; and encourage dialogue within the military as so many female soldiers would benefit from shared experiences, more role models and improved mentorship opportunities.

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