The Trailblazer Podcast celebrates the accomplishments and milestones of notable alumni of Canada’s Military Colleges and provides a platform for them to share their stories and contribute to building future leaders for Canada and the world.

Earlier this Fall, we sat down with Kate Armstrong, the first female officer cadet to receive a cadet college number at the Royal Military College (RMC), Kingston. Armstrong’s memoir The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College’s First Female Cadet Speaks Out describes her experiences at RMC, where she and the 31 other women in that first cohort were integrated into what had previously been an all-male environment.

In her memoir, Armstrong looks back unflinchingly at an experience that was made more daunting by harassment and discrimination. She offers a clear-eyed assessment of her own experience of the practices of the past and has strong views about conditions that allowed discrimination to exist and to persist.

Armstrong was saddened that the Arbour Report’s account of experiences of young Officer Cadets currently attending the Colleges so closely aligned with what she herself experienced 40 years earlier. She sees the report as evidence that certain problems at the College are systemic. “The only way for change to occur is we’re willing to look — pretending that what’s happening isn’t happening or never happened, just perpetuates secrecy and myth.”

Yet Armstrong says she strongly believes in the purpose of the Colleges and their role in shaping leaders for Canada. As such, she feels that the Colleges have an important part to play in cultural change, not just within the institutions, but cascading out to the military and beyond.

“RMC is Canada’s federal leadership institution. Anywhere you go in this country, you don’t have to delve too deeply — whether it be into the hierarchy of a corporation, or the people that you see on the news, or things happening — to find an RMC Cadet. There are RMC graduates that have a huge impact in in our culture and in the leadership of Canada. So, if we can get it right at RMC we can actually effect change in our culture. But the caveat is that change has to be desired — the Colleges really need to embrace it… it would be incredible to create leaders that value all people for the gifts they bring to the table.”

When asked what her advice is for Cadets who want to be part of cultural change, Armstrong explains that cultural change won’t happen without them — it can’t just cascade down from the top. “The rules and structure that are put in place by the administration of the College are not necessarily what’s playing out amongst the Cadets.” Cadets create their own culture “what we agree we’re going to do and what we’re not going to do,” so those who want to effect change need to show up in a different way. “We can’t let the bullies take over, because they do, you know.” Armstrong ruefully acknowledges this is more easily said than done. Her advice to her younger self would be to trust her own instincts more, “The most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life is figure out what my values are, and then have the courage to stand in them.”

To listen to the RMCAA Trailblazer podcast with Kate Armstrong, click below

To order a copy of Kate’s book ” The Stone Frigate” please click here.


  1. Larry Biggin on November 3, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Very glad to see Kate being interviewed.
    Loved her book and her courage.

    • Kate Armstrong on November 3, 2023 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Larry! So fun to see your name. I hope you’re well. Thanks for the shout-out. xo

  2. 10949 Mike Hache on November 3, 2023 at 9:01 pm

    Trailblazers in any walk of life have, and will continue to have, significant obstacles to endure and to conquer. The cultural and systemic biases are real. Our trailblazers should be applauded for surmounting and prevailing through them. I agree with Kate’s assessment of what is needed to effect meaningful change. It cannot be ordered from above. It must bubble up from within! BZ to Kate, and to all of the other trailblazers who are making a difference.

  3. David Hall on November 6, 2023 at 5:00 pm

    I’ve read both Sandra Peron’s book, Out Standing In the Field, and Kate’s book too. I’ve written to both in the past. Through my wife, LCdr Rosemary Park and her good work (no bias here!) with Servicewomen’s Salute I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Sandra too. Fine ladies, all. Fine officers.

    There is a quote, attributed to many, including an Israeli politician, Abba Eban, ““Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” Over 40 years after Kate’s experiences, longer with Sandra’s, I hope that the Colleges and military can finally affect “meaningful change”, as my classmate, Mike Hache succinctly put it. The change in behaviour not only comes via senior officers setting a good example but also from the cadets themselves at Kate points out. It has to because, at this stage of the game, there are no alternatives left.

  4. M0782 Rick Mercer on November 15, 2023 at 11:13 am

    I have read Kates book and was horrified by her experience yet so very proud of her strength and perseverance. It was, in part, a failure of leadership. The top brass talk a good game when the cameras are present however true leadership is what happens when no one is there to see. I have read stories about cadets who, when called to task, simply called their senior officer parents in NDHQ to get the issues squashed. Moral courage is a rare beast within the confines of RMC it appears.

    I had met and loved the stories of “The Len Birchall Express”. Yet during my time at RMC, it was a rare thing indeed for cadets to be held to account.

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