'Still work to do' 100 years after Manitoba women gained right to vote

One hundred years after women earned the right to vote in a provincial election for the first time, the prime minister, minister of the status of women and interim Conservative leader all say there is more work to be done.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the anniversary of Manitoba granting women voting rights in a statement, issued 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. "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.

Minister for the Status of Women Patty Hajdu echoed Trudeau on CTV’s Power Play.

“We saw a record number of women get elected to Parliament -- 88,” she said, referring to October’s election. “But 88 is still a small percentage, so we need to do some work.”

Last year, Trudeau selected the first gender-equal cabinet in Canadian history. However, only 26 per cent of Canada's MPs are women.

Canada has three female premiers, but it has only had one female prime minister -- Progressive Conservative Kim Campbell, who governed for less than two months.

Hajdu said research shows some women avoid politics because it’s still seen as “an old boys club.”

However, she said that perception is changing, thanks to efforts like the Liberal party’s “Invite her to run” campaign, where specific women “were actually invited to take part.”

Hajdu also said many women “face the barrier of child care,” adding “whatever we can do to make family-friendlier environments for both genders is valuable.”

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose also issued a statement recognizing the milestone and saying there is more work to do.

“We are blessed to live in a Canada where most girls enjoy possibilities only dreamed of by their counterparts in too much of the world,” she said.

“Still, we have much work to do,” Ambrose went on. “Like building a great nation, achieving the full equality of all Canadians is a task that demands our constant attention.”

“Despite our achievements, women are still under-represented not just in the highest echelons of corporate Canada, but also in the House of Commons,” Ambrose added. “As well, too many girls find their choices and opportunities limited by economic circumstances.”

Manitoba women gained the right to vote after Nellie McClung’s Political Equality League demonstrated that it was unreasonable 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.


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