It was nearly a century ago that Agnes Macphail became the first woman elected to the House of Commons. Her victory in 1921 meant she represented not only the southwestern Ontario riding of Grey South East, but every Canadian woman across the country as well. Half the population had a 0.4 per cent share of the seats in the 14th Parliament.
Things have improved—if ever so slowly—in almost a century. Women now account for 26 per cent of all MPs, but at the current rate of progress it will take almost another 100 years to hit gender parity. Yet recent events at home and abroad suggest we may be on the verge of a major leap forward in this age-long struggle for political equality.
While you won’t hear it from U.S. President Donald Trump, the biggest winners in the recent U.S. mid-term elections were women. In the House of Representatives, a record-breaking 102 women won seats (89 Democrats, 13 Republicans), marking an improvement over the 85 women in the previous Congress. And many of these women represent important firsts, such as the first two Muslim women to be elected, as well as the first Native American woman. “We’ve seen important breakthroughs,” says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
To Canadians, American boasts of 2018 being the “Year of the Woman” may seem a bit overdramatic. Our female federal legislators already exceed their U.S. counterparts’ gender ratio 26 per cent to 23 per cent. And those historic firsts? Old news. Yasmin Ratansi became Canada’s first Muslim woman MP in 2004. And our first Indigenous female MP was Ethel Blondin-Andrew, elected in 1988. Setting aside any cross-border rivalry, however, the recent U.S. results suggest something bigger may be afoot.
Mexico’s general elections this past summer, for example, delivered a nearly perfectly gender-balanced parliament, the result of a 2014 constitutional amendment requiring parties to field an equal number of male and female candidates. Here at home, provincial elections last year in Quebec, New Brunswick and Ontario all saw record numbers of female candidates running for office. And the newly elected Vancouver city council consists of eight women and three men.
Does all this signal a permanent and rapid shift toward equal representation for women in Canadian politics? The 2019 federal election will tell the tale. The biggest hurdle typically lies at the nomination stage, since ample academic evidence suggests voters do not discriminate between male and female candidates come voting time. And each of the three main parties takes a different route to improving female representation. The NDP is typically the most aggressive in recruiting female candidates, while the Conservatives eschew a formal policy in favour of merit and mentoring. The federal Liberals now require a documented search for women candidates before open nomination meetings can be held.
There’s also evidence that mounting social pressure can play a big role in rectifying long-standing gender issues. Statistics Canada, for example, recently found that reports of sexual assault rose sharply in the wake of the #MeToo social-media movement: in the three months following October 2017, the number of police-reported sexual assaults was up 25 per cent versus comparable earlier periods. Simply bringing gender issues into the full light of day can deliver tangible results, provided society is ready to change.
Gender parity in federal politics is a means to achieving a more inclusive and responsive political system. Canadians expect the House of Commons to reflect their views and interests—to do so, it should look like Canada looks. “I want for myself what I want for all women: absolute equality,” Macphail once said. Isn’t it about time she had it?
MORE ABOUT GENDER EQUALITY:
List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa
With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.
Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.
Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.
Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.
You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.
When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa
Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV
A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast.
Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live.
In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances.
For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school.
“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.”
While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing.
A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.
COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence
Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.
Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.
Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”
People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.
“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.
“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”
Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.
“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”
Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.