Women’s Rights in Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms


Canada has been known as an augury incarnate of the future state of the world regarding the international rights of women. This seems like largely a transitionally true statement and a mostly false statement, as the fortunes for the rights of women trend towards between egalitarian standards while in the noted aims rather than the current status. We’re heading there, but we’re stiltedly doing so. It seems akin to the failure to win a UN Security Council seat for Canada.

As we saw with the loss of the United Nations Security Council seat bid for the Canadian government, we state the right things on many issues, while actively undermining some of the same statements with the actions, via outcomes of the policies, of the country. It’s the same on the rights front in a number of regards.

In my own country, there are a number of organizations dealing with the foundational women’s rights work: Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, CARE Canada, REAL Women of Canada, Canadian Women’s Foundation, Manitoba Political Equality League, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, Canadian Women’s Press Club, Vancouver Women’s Caucus, Local Council of Women of Halifax, Fédération des femmes du Québec, Almas Jiwani Foundation, National Council of Women of Canada, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Canadian Women’s Suffrage Association, Equal Voice, LEAF, Department for Women and Gender Equality, Royal Commission on the Status of Women, Oxfam Canada, The MATCH International Women’s Fund, Nobel Women’s Initiative, National Action Committee on the Status of Women, and Pauktuutit.

In some of the upcoming articles, there will be some short coverage on the history of women’s rights in Canada. The values of Canadian society have been marked by racist policies and statements by leadership within government, and carrying out of some of the most egregious atrocities by formal religions. “Formal religions” held sincerely and dearly by many, most in fact, Canadians throughout the country.

When we look at this history, and as I have witnessed, there can be an open dismissal and denial of the obvious crimes of government, formal religion, faith leaders, and the like. These were Canadian values by the metrics considered to formulate “Canadian values” now, i.e., the laws, policies, and cultural ideas of proper ethics of the time. In that, here, modern Canadian values seem more akin to policies of the Liberal Party of Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a feminist man, Margaret Atwood in feminist literary works, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with open statements for equality.

At the same time, I have witnessed a board member of a feminist or women’s rights organizations be smeared and then kicked out of the organizations or coerced into resignation by fiat and lies without a formal vote of the Board and mere ‘waving of the wand’ and deliberate lies of the leader of the organization. Hence, the linkage or association with the UN Security Council seat from before. The public statements of equality, fairness, and justice, on the one hand; while, on the other hand, the smearing and illegitimate showing of the door in authoritarian rather than democratic manners. Shameful stuff, this is Canada.

Indeed, I have witnessed elder Canadian religious people lie about the history of the Residential School system in this society with the atrocities carried out by the dominant faith sects in the country, by and large, with the sanction of the Government of Canada, i.e., stating this is only the government rather than approval and endorsement of government and implementation by the Christian religion. This raises many questions.

How did Canada get its reputation as a world leader in gender equality? Like many of the above, it got this through an understanding of much truth in the statements, while having a checkered history in many of the appropriate contexts here. Men and women who worked hard to fight for equality while others did the opposite.

The history told to the public presents the rosier, happier side of the story, which is necessary too. Some of the fundamental contributions to women’s equality with men in society emerged from the ability to formal democratic participation at provincial and federal levels through the ability to vote. These sorts of political moves for equality within the country. Not as bad as the contexts for many in American society dealing with fundamentalist Christians, especially Dominionists or Reconstructionists.

Dominionists or Reconstructionists harbour the following theology, as exemplified in the words of George Grant, “Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ—to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness. … But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice. … Christian politics has as its primary intent the conquest of the land—of men, families, institutions, bureaucracies, courts, and governments for the Kingdom of Christ.” It is a politically potent admixture with fundamentalist faith and the Christian religion.

Furthermore, we have made great strides in the more egalitarian values assumed as the nature of Canadian society; where, in fact, these could be temporary and must be defended vigorously in order for maintenance and upholding. One has been a cultural recognition of the right for women to vote, as noted, but, also, the status of women’s rights as something to strive for and, more subtly, as human rights – as part and parcel of the same overall aim.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been a boon to the Canadian landscape of rights implementation as a legal instrument, where this means individual rights become constitutionally protected. Its two core sections for the equality of women and men are sections 15 and 28. Section 15 deals with equal protection and between of the law. Section 28 deals with the equal application of the rights in the Charter for men and women.

So, Section 15 is working more within the legalistic prevention of discrimination; whereas, Section 28 is dealing more with the rights applications or implementations with the Charter itself. A generalized legal and constitutional instrument for the protection of equality of women in this country. What is the subtext?

As before, women were not equal. Men had equality insofar as they were white and the rights became considered between men. Now, the contexts change because the generalized ethical precept was presented, rooted, displaced the old, and grew roots to the legal environments of the provinces and the territories of the nation.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

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