March 8th: Fifteen Milestones to Commemorate on International Women's Day
International Women's Day (IWD) is a time to celebrate the achievements of women, reflect on the progress that has been made towards gender equality, and continue the fight for equality. Here are some interesting women's history facts and milestones in Canada for International Women's Day:
In 1875, Grace Annie Lockhart was the first Canadian woman to be awarded a university degree.
In 1897, Clara Brett Martin became the first woman lawyer in Canada and the British Empire and went on to establish a successful law practice in Toronto. However, she was seldom able to appear in court because of the stir it caused. Martin had to fight the Law Society of Upper Canada (now, Law Society of Ontario) both to allow her to attend law school and to be admitted to the bar.
In 1916, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to grant women the right to vote in provincial elections. Other provinces followed suit, and in 1918, the federal government passed the Canada Elections Act, which granted women the right to vote in federal elections.
In 1917, women gained the right to run for office in Ontario provincial elections.
In 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided that women were not persons who could hold office in the Senate. In 1929, the Privy Council (then, the highest court in Canada) overturned the decision on appeal (the Persons Case, formally Edwards v A.G. of Canada) granting women the right to be appointed to the Senate. This was a significant milestone in the fight for gender equality in Canada and helped pave the way for women's increased participation in politics.
In 1951, Charlotte Whitton was elected Mayor of Ottawa becoming the first female Mayor in Canada.
In 1967, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women was established to examine the social, economic, and political status of women in Canada. The commission's report, released in 1970, made several recommendations to improve the status of women in Canadian society, including equal pay for equal work and the establishment of a national daycare system.
In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to the Canadian Constitution. The Charter contains several provisions that protect women's rights, including the right to equality and the right to freedom from discrimination.
In 1984, Jeanne Sauvé was the first woman to be appointed Governor General of Canada.
In 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R v Morgentaler that Canada's abortion law was unconstitutional. This decision helped ensure that women had the right to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive health.
In 2000, the Famous 5 monument - as the five petitioners, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney and Irene Parlby, in the groundbreaking Persons Case became popularly known - was unveiled at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
In 2005, same-sex marriage became legal nationwide.
In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a gender-balanced Cabinet, with 15 men and 15 women. This was the first time in Canadian history that a Cabinet had been gender balanced.
In 2017, Canada took action against gender-based violence with the launch of Itʼs Time: Canadaʼs Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the first ever federal strategy on GBV.
In 2019, Reclaiming Power and Place, the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, was released calling for transformative legal and social changes to resolve the crisis that has devastated Indigenous communities across the country.
These milestones and accomplishments throughout history demonstrate the progress that has been made towards gender equality. However, there is still work to be done to ensure gender parity. IWD is a reminder to continue the fight for gender equality and to celebrate the achievements of women around the world.