2011 Federal Election: More Canadian Women In The House Now

by: Obert Madondo | Sat. May 7, 2011

The Harper Conservatives’ undeserved parliamentary majority aside, there’s so much to celebrate about Monday’s federal election.

A total of 76 women (24.6%) were elected to the 308-member House of Commons, up from 68 in 2008. The minimum benchmark for a critical mass of women in politics and decision-making institutions is 30%.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May made history by being elected the first Green Party MP ever.

Progressives, under the new Official Opposition NDP banner, elected 102 MPs, 39 per cent of whom are women. 

But we’ve Albertan suffragist and reformer, Emily Murphy, and her Famous Five colleagues – Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie Mcclung, Irene Parlby and Louise McKinney – to thank for these milestones. They started it all back in 1929 when they initiated the battle for legal personhood for women.

Until then, under the British North America Act, 1867, Canadian women weren’t constitutionally recognized as persons.

The women initially asked the Supreme Court of Canada to answer the question, “Does the word ‘Persons’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act, 1867, include female persons?” The Court unanimously ruled that women were not “persons”.

Undeterred, the women petitioned the British Privy Council, then Canada’s highest court of appeal.

On October 29, 1929, the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council decided in the women’s favour, effectively giving Canadian women the right to hold any appointed or elected office. That’s the day most of the barriers against women’s effective participation in politics were broken.

These heroic women came to be known as the “Famous Five”.

But there’s more work ahead. Our politics and Ottawa desperately need a radical makeover to reflect the diversity that makes Canada the unique country it is.

The Canadian Progressive recommends:

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad 

The following two tabs change content below.

Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.