Canada – The Right to Vote for All is Recent in Our Society


Since the inception of Canadian society as a nation-state, there has been turmoil as a colonial country and then as a post-colonial Member State of the United Nations in which the main objective of the majority and the minority of the population has been increasing their own rights insofar as they deem them rights and can claim them as such.

Indeed, with the creation of Canada, our general mandate as a society, now, appeals to some of the better instincts of the Canadian populace with the alignment with some of the international sentiments at some of the highest levels of legitimate democratic authority, e.g., the United Nations.

At the beginning of the country in the middle of the 19th century into the early portions of the 20th century, insofar as a democratic country counts the personhood of citizens as the capability to vote in relevant elections, women were not participatory members of the democratic state.

In that, women were considered second-class citizens by some metrics, but, in actuality, in my manner of thinking on the topic; they were thought as no-class citizens because of the non-viability of their ability to vote. It was a separate kind of vote to become a lower-class vote in a democratic state, as in 3/5ths of a person.

No, it was based on the arrogant presumption of women as not people, i.e., as in not being able to vote in the democratic processes of the State in selecting leadership. In turn, we can stipulate: Women were not people in the 19th and early 20th century of Canadian society by the base standards of democracy.

In 1916, these foundings began to shift, as women won some provincial election rights, as in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. Subsequently, in 1917, British Columbia and Ontario awarded the same right to women, the right to vote.

On principle, this should have been clear as day. However, as turns out over time, the general principle, as things start out for democracies, isn’t generally applied, as in women are not seen as persons, fundamentally democratically.

As these provincial rights to vote changed in 1916 and 1917, Canada, federally, passed the War-time Elections Act granting women who are in the military and who had male relatives fighting in WWI the same rights to vote.

This was a tremendous win for the equality and egalitarian movements. In 1918, all white or Caucasian women in Canada were granted the right to vote. A right, in my opinion, that all women deserved from the outset and were denied whole cloth.

Still, several provinces failed to grant women the right to a provincial vote. This is another national failing in the history of Canada society that deserved correction far earlier; a mistake that never should have been, in the first place. This is also sidestepping an entire conversation of the right for minority groups’ rights to vote.

Now, as a matter of historical fact, Quebec was the last province permitting women the right to vote in 1940, while the Northwest Territories was the last one to permit the right to vote of the territories in 1951. That’s quite a while after the original ones. That’s more than 20 years; that’s an entire generation until the corrective actions for women’s equality were made by the province and a generation and a half for the territory.

By 1960, the final crime of the denial of voting rights was corrected with Aboriginal or Indigenous men and women permitted the right to vote. Happily, we have a number of organizations changing the situation, where I did contribute editing, researching, and writing, and some administrative work, for three years to the former UN Women Canada branch, which became the Almas Jiwani Foundation. As far as I can gather, UN Women and then the Canadian national branch or committee, UN Women Canada, had a falling out, which created tension between the international body and the national committee.

Unfortunately, the national committee doesn’t exist anymore, while it became a foundation, which is when I came on board. Outside of great international rights work of the Almas Jiwani Foundation, where I was a Board Member, or the international efforts of Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and UN Women, Canada has a number of national organizations committed to making sure the failings do not continue to happen into the future.

These include Royal Commission on the Status of Women, Oxfam Canada, The MATCH International Women’s Fund, Nobel Women’s Initiative, Vancouver Women’s Caucus, Local Council of Women of Halifax, Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, Equal Voice, LEAF, Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and Pauktuutit, Canadian Women’s Press Club, CARE Canada, REAL Women of Canada, Fédération des femmes du Québec, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, Department for Women and Gender Equality Almas Jiwani Foundation, National Council of Women of Canada, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Canadian Women’s Foundation, and Manitoba Political Equality League.

It’s important to maintain the wins while bearing in mind; nothing is set firm or guaranteed in the history of these movements. Therefore, these organizations and this provincial, territorial, and national history, become important markers as to what is needed to be kept, whether in memory or in rights, to succeed where prior generations failed.

Photo by Jimmy Dean on Unsplash

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