Significant Changes and Inequalities in Canadian Society The Woman’s Movement
Changes in Canada have been significant in the last century. Changes that have impacted
women have been particularly profound. The strength, courage and persistence that
women have demonstrated has been quite remarkable. Women have made tremendous
contributions to the military, politics and social causes. It is hard to fathom that many of the
privileges we take for granted today were the very things women fought so hard for
decades ago. The women’s movement has improved Canada and bettered the lives of all
women by bringing awareness to political groups and the general population
so that numerous organizations, social groups, laws and legislations have been
created in order to bring justice and equality to Canadian women everywhere.
The right to vote for example was not granted to women until 1918 when the “Canada
Elections Act” gave women over 21 the right to vote federally. Another historic event
took place in 1988 when the Supreme Court of Canada decided that the existing abortion
law at the time was unconstitutional and from that point on abortion would be
considered like any other medical procedure. A highly significant change for women
occurred in 1967 when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson established the Status of
Women, which would change a woman’s place in Canadian society forever.
All Canadian citizens today, once, 18 years of age, are allowed to vote. It is a privilege
many take for granted, so much so that often half the people eligible don’t bother to vote.
Before 1918 women were not allowed to vote. The dedication and hard work by hundreds
of female volunteers helped Canada win the war. Many of the women who stayed back
while the men went off to war continued the hard labour such as farming and
manufacturing jobs. Women were bitter at the fact they were not treated equally by
earning the same wages or the right to vote even though they were doing the same jobs as
men. Suffragist movements were organized as a result of the inequality women felt.
These women often went to extremes to make their point known. Some actually tied
themselves to train tracks and if sent to jail they would go on hunger strikes.
One woman made her point known by throwing herself in front of a King’s horse. Her
suicide brought much attention to the suffragist cause. In 1917 the Wartime Elections Act
came into effect allowing mothers, sisters, wives of soldiers and nurses who served in the
war to vote. Nineteen hundred and eighteen saw the end of the war and a new legislation
that allowed all women to vote. The Canadian women suffragists during the First World
War were the pioneers of the women’s movement that would eventually bring equality to
both genders. The women’s movement persevered through the years and by 1988 another
law passed that would give Canadian women freedom to choose.
The women’s movement’s fiercest fight was obtaining the right for all women to have an abortion. “The most controversial field of feminist action is the attempt to affirm women's right to control over their bodies.”(3) At the head of the debate was a doctor named Dr. Henry Morgentaler. He believed every woman should have the right to choose whether or not they wanted to carry a fetus to term. He opened abortion clinics in Winnipeg and Toronto in 1983. He was taken to trial for this and acquitted but the Crown appealed and requested a new trial. Individuals who were ‘pro-life’ and greatly opposed abortion rallied against him. Dr. Morgentaler made an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1988 the Supreme Court of Canada upset the ‘pro- life’ movement by axing the existing abortion law announcing it was unconstitutional. The Government however did not bring in new legislation so there...
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