York University Libraries | Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections online exhibits

Status of Women

Women have struggled for gender equality throughout Canadian history. Canadian women were not considered “persons” under the law prior to October 18, 1929. The “Famous Five” (Emily Murphy, Louise McKinney, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby and Henrietta Muir Edwards) Albertan women challenged Section 24 of the British North America Act  to give women persons status ; thus the eligibility to be appointed senators. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (adopted in 1982) is a bill of rights that secures the fundamental rights of all Canadians regardless of “race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” (section 15(1). It also ensured people’s democratic rights to freedom of expression, religion, association and assembly consistently across Canada.

Jean Augustine was the Minister of State for the Status of Women from 2002 to 2004. Previous to her ministerial duties, Jean Augustine was very active in advocating for the full rights of Canadian women, particularly as a member and president of the Congress of Black Women of Canada. She also participated on the 1987 Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution as a member of the Congress of Black Women of Canada.

The following selected buttons represent some of the issues around gender equality Canadian women have advocated for. The buttons cover the labour movement, violence against women, women’s rights organizations and conferences.