navigation main:
Bookmark and Share

seeing the status of women

February 13, 2008

A very influential 41-year-old celebrates her birthday on February 16, 2008. Her parents were a shy Prime Minister Lester Pearson and a feisty Judy LaMarsh, the Secretary of State. The matchmakers were women across the country who would not be denied, led by Laura Sabia. The midwives were five women and two men, assisted by a gifted staff.

She eventually weighed in at 488 pages and 176 recommendations.

Florence Bird, commissioner for Council on the Status of Women, Ottawa. | photo: courtesy Library and Archives Canada/PA-135131

About half of Canada’s current population is under the age of 40, and has had the benefit of the things she changed:

  • raising the minimum wage of women to equal that of men
  • creating paid maternity leave for women
  • prohibiting dismissal or layoff due to pregnancy
  • simplifying the grounds for divorce and ensuring the equitable distribution of assets on divorce
  • increasing women’s access to occupations and institutions

If you would like to spend some time with the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women – appointed on February 16, 1967, and the first royal commission headed by a woman – the New Brunswick Advisory Council of the Status of Women just made it a snap with this handy PDF file:

Some of the Commission’s most important recommendations remain unfulfilled:

  • an affordable and accessible national day care programme
  • a guaranteed annual income for the heads of all on-parent families with dependent children
  • abortion on demand before 12 weeks

The story of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women is a classic example of how citizens – in this case, women – can create change on issues that matter to them. Women started to call for it in the early 1960s. The federal government finally moved in 1967 in response to repeated demands by a committee representing 30 some organizations with a membership totaling 2 million women. Women journalists, women’s periodicals, radio and TV programmes played a role. It came from the grassroots. It heard from the grassroots – a total of 890 witnesses from coast to coast to coast.

What is our birthday wish for the Royal Commission on the Status of Women? Any sign of a grandchild on the way?


Bird, Florence Bayard, biography by CERISE MORRIS, The Canadian Encyclopedia
external download iconLooking Back, Looking Forward (125.8 KB PDF), by BRENDA O’NEILL, The University Women’s Club of Winnipeg | May 23, 2003
Equality First: The Royal Commission on the Status of Women , CBC Archives
Royal Commission on the Status of Women, by CERISE MORRIS, Canadian Encyclopedia


  • Seasonal Feature

  • April 1994: the night raid at Kingston’s Prison for Women

    by Sierra Bacquie

    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