Women have looked to the law as a tool to change their circumstances, while at the same time the law is one of the instruments which confirms their dependent status as citizens (see Status of Women). The first phase of the Women's Movement, in proclaiming that women were capable of reason as well as reproduction and nurturing, claimed a place for women in the public sphere, while also relying upon the concept of "separate spheres" to delineate their areas of strength and competence.
Sheila Watt-Cloutier (née Watt), OC, human rights and Indigenous rights activist, cultural preservation advocate, politician, writer and educator (born 2 December 1953 in Old Fort Chimo, QC). Watt-Cloutier is a respected Inuit leader who has received international recognition and acclaim in the areas of rights activism, environmental and climate change awareness and social justice.
Avie Bennett, businessman, publisher, philanthropist (born 2 Jan 1928 in Toronto, ON; died 2 June 2017 in Toronto, ON). Renowned for his interest in social and cultural issues, Avie Bennett began his business career in shopping centre development, a business that his family had pioneered.
Canadian Parents for French is a national organization of parents dedicated to the expansion of French second-language learning opportunities for young Canadians. Primarily driven by the volunteer efforts of parents, it has been the leading organization in Canada dedicated to the expansion of French immersion programs and the improvement of French second-language learning programs since the 1970s.
Marie Arzélie Éva Circé-Côté, journalist, writer and librarian (born 31 January 1871 in Montréal, QC; died 4 May 1949 in Montréal, QC). A poet and playwright, Éva Circé-Côté was the city of Montréal’s first librarian as well as the curator of the prestigious Philéas Gagnon collection. Throughout her career as a journalist, she wrote over 1,800 pieces for about a dozen newspapers under several pseudonyms. A progressive, secular free thinker, she fought for compulsory education and the status of women.
Édouard-Raymond Fabre, bookseller, politician, mayor of Montréal 1849–51, Patriote (born 15 September 1799 in Montréal, Lower Canada; died 16 July 1854 in Montréal, Canada East). Known as the “first real bookseller in Lower Canada,” Fabre’s bookstore not only provided patrons with books and supplies, but it was also a meeting place for the Patriotes. A devoted Patriote himself, he played a major role in the creation of the Maison canadienne de commerce and la Banque du peuple as well as the survival of La Minerve and the Vindicator and Canadian Advertiser. Following the 1837–38 Rebellions, Fabre helped guarantee the return of political exiles to Lower Canada, including Louis-Joseph Papineau, and was the mayor of Montréal from 1849 to 1851.
William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, financier, politician, author, publisher (b at Maple, Ont 25 May 1879; d at Cherkley, Mickleham, Eng 9 June 1964). The son of a Presbyterian minister, Beaverbrook later claimed that his religion lay at the root of his worldly success.
Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian. In 2002 he was sent by the United States to Syria as an accused terrorist, based on faulty information supplied to US agents by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Arar was tortured in Syria before being released and returned to Canada. The federal government paid him $10.5 million in compensation for the wrongs done to him.
Justine Lacoste-Beaubien, C.B.E., founder and administrator of the Hôpital Sainte-Justine (born 1 October 1877 in Montréal, Québec; died 17 January 1967 in Montréal). A seasoned businesswoman, she chaired the board of directors of the Hôpital Sainte-Justine from 1907 to 1966 and made her dream come true by making the hospital a university research and study centre affiliated with the Université Laval in Montréal (now the Université de Montréal). From 1950 to 1957, she had a state-of-the-art hospital built for sick children on chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine. More than 100 years after it was established, the Centre hospitalier universitaire (university-affiliated hospital) (CHU) Sainte-Justine is the largest mother-child centre in the country and the only institution in Québec dedicated exclusively to pediatrics and obstetrics.
The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) is a feminist, activist organization that was founded in 1971 to pressure the Canadian government to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. The NAC ceased active operations in the late 2000s.
Florence Bayard Bird (née Rhein, pseudonym Anne Francis), CC, senator, journalist, broadcaster and author (born 15 January 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 18 July 1998 in Ottawa, Ontario). Chair of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada from 1967 to 1970, Florence Bird made her name as a broadcast journalist for CBC/Radio-Canada, reporting news and producing documentaries on women’s working conditions and on conditions for women in Canada’s prisons.
The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, also known as the Bird Commission in honour of its chair, Florence Bird, was established on 3 February 1967. More than 900 people appeared at its public hearings over a period of six months. In addition to providing an overview of the status of women, the report tabled on 7 December 1970 included 167 recommendations for reducing gender inequality across the various spheres of Canadian society.
Henrietta Louise Edwards, née Muir, women’s rights activist, reformer, artist (born 18 December 1849 in Montréal, Canada East; died 9 November 1931 in Fort Macleod, AB). Edwards fought from a very young age for women’s rights and education, as well as women’s work and health across the country. A gifted artist, talented interpreter of the law and tireless activist and organizer, she helped found a great number of movements, societies and organizations aimed at improving the lives of women in Canada. Edwards aimed to expand women’s rights in the political and especially the legal sphere, and was one of the five appellants, “The Famous Five,” in the Persons Case.
Margret Benedictsson (née Jonsdottir), journalist, social activist, suffragist (born 16 March 1866 in Hrappsstadir, Iceland; died 13 December 1956 in Anacortes, Washington). Benedictsson brought her deeply held beliefs and interest in social change to Manitoba. Through her service to the Icelandic communities in Selkirk, Gimli, and Winnipeg, she championed women’s suffrage, education, improved working conditions, and human rights.