section15.ca was created to engage you. Move you. Surprise you. To give you a feminist take on Canadian history, as well as the country’s people, events and culture.
This site focuses on economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these rights are needed in order to enjoy freedom from fear and want.
Because of its educational nature, section15.ca embraces a spectrum of perspectives, and has no political party affiliations. Language here respects the rights of others.
- promotes women’s full rights and freedoms in Canada and around the world;
- recognizes and celebrates women’s diversity; and
- features articles and ideas dealing with equality as it relates to gender, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sexual orientation, age and both mental and physical disability.
section15.ca is a project of Nancy’s Very Own Foundation. It currently does not assign features, but is here as a resource.back to the top
Rebels Without a Clause
While the site draws inspiration from section 15 of Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms, it is not confined to the legal understanding of equality rights. Here, we deal with concerns about what equity and equality mean.
section15.ca also explores the limitations of and problems with laws and the legal system.
Changes in law usually happen after people push for them. Movements often have to work hard to get governments and courts to catch up to what culture is ready to embrace. Sometimes, it takes culture a while to catch up, too.
Our articles and blog often focus on how women and men work for positive change, with a steady eye on gender equity.
That’s why our tagline is “rebels without a clause.” It's true – technically, section 15 doesn’t have a clause. But what’s truer is that section15.ca looks to the people who understand that we can't leave it to the legal system alone to push for things that benefit us all. section15.ca visits the encouraging places where new ground is being broken.
We are rebels without a clause. With many causes.back to the top
Section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms breaks down into two sub-sections. A funny thing happened to this part of the charter: when people talk about it, they are often only thinking about the first subsection.
On this website, the second one – which gets little attention these days – is at least as important as the first.
So what does this mean?
Subsection 15(1) refers to “Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law.” Its focus is on individuals who should not be discriminated against “based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” Since the charter was written, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized other individuals facing discrimination but not named in section 15.
Subsection 15(2) deals with “Affirmative action programs” – explaining that the section is not to be used to rule out laws, programs and activities that exist to improve and address the conditions of those protected by section 15. This means affirmative action is protected in Canada. So far, the Supreme Court has argued that this subsection strengthens and adds to the first. That said, the court has also recognized that section 15(2) might be considered on its own in the future. It is still to be seen whether this country is committed to actively creating programs that counter such discrimination.back to the top
Who are we?
We are the people covered by section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms. We are the people working for a fairer country and world. We long for fairness, equality and equity. We believe that women and men should enjoy equal standing in society. We recognize that too many times, they do not. We are the ones that Rosemary Brown encouraged to make changes that will “open the doors” – seeing to it that “they remain open, so that others can pass through.”
People have the power to change. Ourselves. Our situations. Our government. Our culture. Our laws. Together, we are stronger. Go to the section15.ca “we” features.back to the top
They are the ones who like how things are now. They don’t want change. They enjoy the benefits of life as it is, and become fearful when asked to image life as it could be.
They have more power. They are part of the institutions that we want to change. They might be on the inside, working to make things better. Or they might not know how their rules and ideals are oppressive. Then again, they might.
With each issue, who they are can change. They might be allies. They might be friends. They might be some of us.
The person who blurts out a racist joke, saying she doesn’t really mean it. The worker who is silent about the unfair firing of another employee, fearing she could lose her own job. The person who complains about others wanting special treatment, arguing that Canada is already too accepting, without really listening to someone else's experience here, and how it hurts.
Sometimes, they hurt, too. Go to the section15.ca “they” features.back to the top
Too often, people’s everyday realities are overlooked or glossed over. This is especially true for those of us with little power and a lack of voice in governments, courts, institutions and organizations that play a big role in shaping our country.
section15.ca is interested in what is happening now. We have covered events exploring equality and equity – celebrations, demonstrations, discussions and workshops. And what people are doing to make a better world today.back to the top
In 1946, Viola Desmond was arrested, convicted and fined because she sat in the “whites-only” section of a theatre. Corrie Best wrote about it in her newspaper. The two organized community lobbying to end the law of segregation in Nova Scotia. The effort succeeded in 1954.
One year after that change, a woman in Montgomery, Alabama – Rosa Parks – refused to give up her bus seat to a white man.
That story is well known. If you knew the Canadian story, you are one of the few.
section15.ca is a place to celebrate and expose the history that too often is left out of our country’s myth-making. The stories about those who fought passionately for better treatment and more opportunities. And the ones of those who resisted change. Go to the section15.ca “then” features.back to the top
section15.ca grew out of an earlier website, called CoolWomen. It was launched in 1996, and was online until January, 2008. It quickly became Canada’s largest women’s history website, featuring the stories of historical and contemporary girls and women in Canada.
CoolWomen was developed after 13 women brainstormed at a kitchen table. What began as an idea to create a physical museum building evolved into a museum mobile, and eventually became CoolWomen.
You will find CoolWomen’s past features have now made a home here. Any story published before 2008 came from the older-sister website.back to the top
There was supposed to be a new approach to the Correctional Service of Canada’s relationship to female offenders, who were promised responsible choices, respect, dignity, supportive environments, and shared responsibility. But on the night of April 26, eight women experienced humiliation, degradation, raw fear and trauma at the hands of an all-male emergency team. How did this happen? What has changed since? read more