Toronto – September 26, 2014 – October 2014 will mark the 85th anniversary of the Persons Case. The highest court ruling in October 1929, not only asserted that women were “persons” in Canadian society but that they had the right to hold a seat in the Senate and pursue politics. The "Famous Five" – Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards – are heroes of their time. While they faced many challenges including bigotry, they received full support from the Prime Minister of the day, William Lyon Mackenzie.
The final ruling from the Privy Council held “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous…those who ask why the word persons should include females, the obvious answer is why should it not.” Sadly, it was not until October 2009, that posthumously the Famous Five were awarded the Government of Canada Distinction of being named honorary Senators.
While the roles and opportunities for women have advanced over the decades, the fact remains that in today’s society, gender-based assumptions and discrimination continue hold women back. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts in many non-unionized workplaces. Research also shows that men continue to advance faster and are promoted based on their potential, while women have to prove that they are ready for the job. This gender-based inequity is one reason why unions are needed now more than ever before.
UFCW Canada represents women members in hundreds of workplaces, from retail and commerce to healthcare and food processing. At every round of bargaining women’s rights are on the forefront, to ensure that companies are continuously aware of their corporate social responsibility to equality, enforced by strong collective agreement language. We also continue to address childcare issues through a national labour campaign and kitchen table discussions on affordable, accessible childcare. We also address the work-life balance in our unionized workplaces and promote training that not only focuses on diversity but also inclusion of women in leadership positions in their workplaces.
To commemorate Women’s History Month, UFCW Canada has commissioned a special poster to celebrate the tremendous contribution women in Canada have made to our lives, community and country. This month is also a time to acknowledge that far too often, women and girls continue to face obstacles to advancement as leaders because of gender-based discrimination. So this Women's History Month, let us renew our commitment bestowed by the Famous Five to continue to advance the critical struggle for full equality and opportunity for all women.