Persons Day

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Persons Day is an annual celebration in Canada, held on October 18 each year. The day commemorates the case of Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General), more commonly known as The Persons Case – a famous Canadian constitutional case decided on October 18, 1929, by the Judicial Committee of the Imperial Privy Council, which at that time was the court of last resort for Canada. The Persons Case held that women were eligible to sit in the Senate of Canada.

While not a civic holiday, several women's groups across Canada make significant note of the day, including The Women's Legal Education and Action Fund.[1]

History[edit]

In the 1900s, the Canadian west experienced a great deal of change. In Alberta, the population changed from rural to urban,[2] and this created a great deal of problems. Men outnumbered women, causing social problems such as alcohol abuse and prostitution. This motivated women to not only fix the society that they belonged to but also pursue a role in politics. In the year 1916, Alberta passed legislation granting women the right to vote.[3] However, there was an issue with the word Person in the federal act. For some, persons was used when talking about more than one person and he was used when talking about one person. This caused some to say that the Act was indicated that only a man could be a person, which prevented women from participating fully in politics or affairs of state.[4]

The Famous Five[edit]

Persons Day would not exist if not for The Famous Five, who were responsible for ensuring that women were included in the word person. These five women included Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. Each of these five women contributed to the legal system in one way. Emily Murphy, who led the case in 1927, was the first woman in the British Empire to be appointed magistrate in 1916.[5] McClung was the first woman on the CBC Board of Governors and a representative to the League of Nations.[6] Louise McKinney was the first woman sworn into the Alberta Legislature and in the British Empire.[7] Parlby, who was also in the Alberta Legislature, helped pass 18 bills, which helped women and children, and was also the second female cabinet minister in the British Empire.[8] Finally, Henrietta Edwards is known for establishing the National Council of Women in 1890.[9] Each of these women have very qualified backgrounds and their own positions in the legal system, making them informed and knowledgeable in the fight for woman and helping them win the Persons Case.

Persons Case[edit]

The Persons Case honours the five Albertan women that won the victory of Canadian women's equality.[10] This granted women the right to not only serve in the senate, but also to participate in daily activities. In 1927, Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edward went to the Supreme Court of Canada to get an answer as to why women were not included in the word person according to the B.N.A. Act.[11] The debate took over five weeks, and the court eventually ruled that the word person was going to continue to exclude women. This motivated The Famous Five even more, and their next step was to go to London to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain.[12] At the time, this was the biggest court appeal possible. Two years later, on October 18, 1929, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision of the court to include women in the word person:[13]

"The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word "person" should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?"

In 1979, on the 50th anniversary of the Privy Council's decision, the Government of Canada instituted the Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case to recognize outstanding contributions to advance equality for women in Canada. The Awards are presented annually at a ceremony on Persons Day.[14] People of merit can be nominated annually[15] to receive honours for their contributions towards the goal of gender equality.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Women's Legal Education and Action Fund
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  5. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/rights-freedoms/general-2/women-become-persons.html
  6. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/rights-freedoms/general-2/women-become-persons.html
  7. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/rights-freedoms/general-2/women-become-persons.html
  8. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/rights-freedoms/general-2/women-become-persons.html
  9. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/politics/rights-freedoms/general-2/women-become-persons.html
  10. ^ "Persons Day." Canadianwomen.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-11-24. Retrieved 2014-12-08.
  13. ^ http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/commemoration/pd-jp/history-histoire-en.html
  14. ^ Six Outstanding Women Receive Governor General's Persons Award Archived 2011-10-31 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2011-10-21.
  16. ^ "Persons Day." Canadianwomen.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2014.

External links[edit]

Scholars in