Century since first women's voting rights in Canada

On this day in 1916, Canadian women earned the right to vote in a provincial election, thanks to the crusading efforts of Nellie McClung and her supporters in Manitoba.

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McClung was a prominent figure in the suffrage-focused Political Equality League of her time, and helped lead the charge against the province of Manitoba to win the right to vote. At one point, she even played the "Premier" in a mock session of Parliament, as the League sought to show how ridiculous it was to exclude women from the democratic process.

McClung was an active member of Manitoba's Liberal Party, and in 1915, the Liberals defeated the Conservatives in an election and introduced legislation to grant women the vote. The legislation became official on Jan. 28, 1916.

Other provinces soon followed suit, with Saskatchewan and Alberta granting voting rights that same year, followed by most of the other provinces and territories in the following decade. Quebec was the last province to grant women the vote, in 1940, while the Northwest Territories did not do so until 1951.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the anniversary for women's voting rights in a statement, issued on Thursday.

"This victory played a crucial role in shaping the Canada we know and love - a Canada where acceptance, equality, and respect are integral parts of who we are and what we stand for," Trudeau said in the statement. "These brave suffragettes led by example then, and they continue to inspire us now."

Trudeau also repeated a notion he put forward during a panel on gender last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"All Canadians, women and men alike, should be proud to call themselves feminists," he said.

He added that Canadians "still have a lot of work to do" to become more inclusive of women in government.

Last year, Trudeau selected the first gender-equal cabinet in Canadian history. However, only 26 per cent of Canada's elected MPs are female, and the country has only had one female prime minister – Kim Campbell, who governed for less than two months.

Three of Canada's current premiers are female, with Rachel Notley leading Alberta, Christy Clark in charge in B.C. and Kathleen Wynne at the helm in Ontario.

"Together, we can, and will, continue to push for true equality between men and women, right here in Canada and around the world," Trudeau said in his statement.



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