October is Women's History Month | National Union of Public and General Employees

October is Women's History Month

This year’s theme is 'Women in the Lead'

Ottawa (1 Oct. 2008) - Since 1992, October has been recognized as Women’s History Month in Canada – a time to celebrate the incredible achievements of women. Canadian women have shaped and continue to shape our country – with their strength, wisdom and courage.

The Persons Case

The federal government of Canada declared the month of October as Canadian Women’s History Month in response to a letter-writing campaign led by a Victoria woman named Lyn Gough. October was also chosen in recognition of the fact that on Oct. 18, 1929, Canadian women were officially declared persons under the law.

'Women are Persons' - Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The Persons Case is a legal history milestone in Canada. Five Albertan women, known as the Famous Five: Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby, asked the Supreme Court of Canada to declare that women were persons under the law.

The Supreme Court denied the women who then appealed to the British Privy Council. The Privy Council described the exclusion of women as “a relic of days more barbarous than ours” and overturned the Canadian decision. On October 18, 1929, Canadian women became persons at last. October 18 has since been celebrated as Persons Day in Canada.

From the involvement of the Famous Five in the Persons Case to female leaders today, women continue to raise our social conscience, give voice to issues of inequality and work to build a future free of discrimination, violence and poverty

2008 Theme

The Status of Women Canada’s theme for 2008 Women’s History Month is Women in the Lead. The objective for this year is to honour the girls and women in Canada, past and present, who have opened doors for others to follow.

By drawing attention to the many extraordinary achievements of ordinary Canadian women, the Government of Canada hopes to not only raise awareness among Canadians but to inspire future generations to make history.

But are Women in the Lead?

Women in Canada have accomplished many incredible achievements often facing major obstacles such as those faced and conquered by the Famous Five. However, women in Canada still face serious obstacles to obtaining equality in this country. Women continue to earn only 71 cents for every dollar earned by a Canadian male. Women continue to struggle with the lack of child care in this country which could be resolved by creating a universal Early Education and Child Care program. Cuts to the funding of Status of Women Canada have led to the silencing of many women’s groups that fight for equality and the cancelling of the Court Challenges Program has left our most vulnerable women without representation in our courts.

These issues and the numerous other issues faced by Canadian women could be addressed most effectively by having more women in leadership within our government. Women comprise 50% of the population but so far Canada hasn’t elected more than 22% women to the House of Commons. Canada currently ranks 51st in international ranking of women in political office. It is estimated that we would need about 30% of women in the legislature to effect change and have women’s issues start being addressed.

Election 2008

The first federal election in which women were able to vote and run as candidates was in 1921. In that election, four women ran for office and Agnes Campbell MacPhail (1890-1954) made history as the first woman elected to the Canadian House of Commons. Between 1921 and 2006, 3402 women candidates stood in the 39 general elections and won on 426 occasions. Since 1993, the percentage of women in the House has hovered between 18% and 21.1%. In 2006, 20.7% of MPs elected were women. In 2006, Stephen Harper appointed six women to cabinet; in 2007, seven.

At the close of nominations for the 2008 election, there were 444 women among the 1601 registered candidates. Across the country, 80.5% of ridings have at least one woman on the ballot. As of Sept. 25, 2008 the breakdown of the number of women nominated in each party was:

  • The Conservatives nominated 20% women, but just 15% of the total in winnable ridings.
  • The Liberals nominated 37% women, with 28% in winnable ridings.
  • The NDP nominated 34% women, with 39% in winnable ridings.
  • The Bloc nominated 28%, with 32% in winnable ridings.
  • The Greens nominated 25% women (none in ridings considered winnable for the party).

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) joins with all of its members and all Canadians in celebrating Canadian women’s numerous achievements. As well, NUPGE encourages all Canadians to make sure they vote on Oct. 14. After the election you can help to increase the number of women in the Canadian government by becoming more politically active, learning more about our political system, joining a political party and by nominating a woman. NUPGE

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