Today is Persons Day in Canada, a day to commemorate the 1929 legal decision that finally gave Canadian women the right to vote.
Two years earlier, five Canadian women who became known as the “Famous Five”– Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Henrietta Muir Edwards—filed a legal challenge against the provisions of the British North America Act that defined “person” as a man, thereby denying women the right to vote. The definition was also used to disqualify women from being appointed to the Senate and many other aspects of public life.
The Famous Five’s initial challenge was denied by the Supreme Court of Canada, but a subsequent appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, which was at that time the highest court of appeal in Canada, ruled in favour of the challenge.
On October 18, 1929, Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision:
“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?”
This year, Persons Day is just two days before local elections in British Columbia. As we prepare to vote on Saturday, let’s celebrate this important victory and work together to elect more women to local government. And let’s also reflect on how much more is yet to be done to ensure all people have equal rights and opportunities.
For more information on Persons Day, click here.