It was less than 100 years ago that women were not considered “persons” under Canadian law.
This stemmed from an 1876 British common law ruling that stated “women are persons in matters of pains and penalties, but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges.”
In the eyes of lawmakers and politicians, half of the country’s population was not allowed to have an opinion. The voices of mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and grandmothers did not matter. You were seen, not heard. You were schooled, but not encouraged to pursue a career. You could get married, give birth, clean house, cook dinner, tend to your husband, but not run for a seat on the senate.
That went on until a group of women, known as the Famous 5, attempted to change the law.
In 1927, Nellie McClung, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Canada to ask that the word “persons” in Section 24 of the British North American Act include females, and therefore a woman could be appointed to the Senate.
The “persons” case dragged on and was actually turned down by the Supreme Court in 1928. The women appealed to the Privy Council to rule on the matter, and on Oct. 18, 1929, the council ruled that women were indeed persons and could become senators.
I am dragging up this important history lesson because of what I saw and heard this past week. Last weekend, women were back marching on the streets — not seen since the suffragette movement — demonstrating that they are indeed “persons.”
We are half of the human race. We have a right to feel safe. We need to support one another. We need to feel supported, not vilified for our gender or beliefs.
This was not a male vs. female rally, far from it, or a vapid way for celebrities to get their names in the news. It was simply about letting certain powers know that women need to be heard without being called names, such as the more recent vitriol that has been popping out of certain politician’s mouths or tweeted out by faceless hacks into the ether.
I was recently witness to such an attack towards a male artist, who wrote a spoken word piece in ode to women. Tyler Skyy, a former resident of Vernon, said he wrote his piece, with its ensuing video featuring a few Vernon women, to fight the misogyny that exists today and to show his support towards all women.
And looking at some of the comments posted on Tyler’s YouTube page for his video, that message is still not sitting well with some who feel threatened. I am not going to take away from Tyler’s beautiful piece by repeating some of those comments, but am deeply sad that such hatred towards women still exists.
It’s not going to get better until more voices are raised, and that includes those of men like Tyler.
Thanks to the Famous 5, we are indeed “persons.”