BY MAX SINGH
“Women’s rights are human rights. Equality rights are fundamental, given the unequal treatment women have experienced in Canada”.
Canada is still a very young country compared to most nations. Its history has been shaped by millions of people since its formation in 1867.
Women have played an essential part in building the country and continue to do. Women championed several necessary human rights that have become core Canadian values.— the right to vote in provincial and federal elections, the right to own property, earn a fair wage, and the right to be recognized as “persons” under the law. This has not always been the case.
In terms of history, one of the earliest steps toward equality for Canadian women was legalizing married women’s property rights starting in Ontario in 1884 and Manitoba in 1900. Another significant milestone for women’s rights was defining “persons” under the British North America Ac in 1867. Five famous Canadian women activists—Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby—petitioned the government in 1928 to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to decide whether “persons” in the Act included women. Not until 1929 Canadian women were allowed to hold political office.
At the beginning of the 20th century, women were denied the right to vote in provincial and federal elections. This began to change in 1916 when women won the right to vote in provincial elections in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. British Columbia and Ontario granted women the right to vote in 1917.
‘Women have played an important part in the formation of the Canadian country and continue to do. Women championed several important human rights that have become core Canadian values.”
In more recent history, one of the first significant steps toward equality between women and men in the workforce was passing the Fair Employment Practices Act and the Female Employees Fair Remuneration Act in Ontario in 1951. These acts were designed to provide women with equal pay for work of equal value. The rest of Canada’s provinces and territories quickly followed Ontario’s lead in adopting similar provincial acts to ensure equality in the workforce.
This also led to the federal government passing the following three acts: the Canada Fair Employment Practices Act of 1953, which applied to the civil service; the Female Employees Equal Pay Act of 1956, which made wage discrimination based on sex against the law; and the Employment Equity Act of 1986, which applies to federally regulated employees and requires employers to identify and eliminate unnecessary barriers that limit employment opportunities.
Women are now further protected from discrimination on gender, age, marital status, and any discrimination by the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“It was not until only in 1916 when women won the right to vote in provincial elections. Canadian women were not allowed to hold political office until 1929.”
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms gives constitutional protection to individual human rights. It applies to relationships between an individual and government. In contrast, relationships between individuals are covered in certain areas by the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) and provincial and territorial human rights legislation.
There are two critical sections of the Charter to note regarding women’s equality: sections 15 and 28. Section 15 ensures the equal protection and benefit of the law “without discrimination, based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
Court decisions have expanded this list to prohibit discrimination on other grounds. Section 28 guarantees that all rights covered in the Charter apply equally to men and women. The Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977 states that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and family status.
Canada has worked to make women’s human rights a strong focus of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and Human Rights Council. It was one of the first countries to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, setting international standards to eliminate gender discrimination.
In 2002, Canada ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000.
As part of our nation’s commitment to this Convention, Canada must submit a report to the United Nations every four years about how it has worked to further women’s rights. The priorities and initiatives include addressing the following issues: The lack of women in positions of power, Patriarchy, Sexism, Racism, Economic inequality, and access to equal opportunity. The Act also addresses further issues that impact women, such as the lack of respect for caregiving, navigating career and motherhood, Sexual and reproductive health and rights, and eliminating violence against women.
Much work still needs to be done and is being carried out around these issues by federal and provincial governments and non-governmental organizations.
Two major organizations that support women in Canada are the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the National Council of Women of Canada. The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a non-governmental organization committed to achieving gender equality.
The National Council of Women of Canada addresses the welfare and improvement of women’s overall standard of life. The organization focuses on using research and education to empower women to make informed political decisions. This allows women to play a more active role in society and equal positions in essential matters.
There is still a lot to do in terms of ensuring equality. Women’s rights are human rights. Equality rights are fundamental, given the unequal treatment women have experienced in Canada.
Governmentofcanada.ca. Globalaffairscanada.ca. Canada.ca./ history of rights.ca. Human rights.ca. theborgenproject.org. The National Council of Women of Canada. Canadian Women’s Foundation.