October is women are free persons month commemorating the Canadian Valiant Five’s awesome victory.
The famous Edwards versus Canada case, also known as the Persons Case, began on October 19, 1927, it ultimately decided that women were eligible to sit in the Canadian Senate.
This famous Canadian constitutional case that had to have a judgement by the British Privy Council in London also ruled on October 18, 1929 declaring that women were legal “persons” under the B.N.A. Act. Why this went to Britain was because until then, women were still considered ‘non-persons’ even for the Supreme Court of Canada, which had made that decision prior to the Privy Council’s.
The five determined women, led by Emily Murphy, appealed to the Judicial Committee of England’s Privy Council. This Committee’s five Lords decided unanimously that ‘persons’ in Section 24 of the BNA Act includes both sexes. Lord Chancellor, Viscount Sankey, Committee head, called the earlier Supreme Court of Canada interpretation of the BNA Act as “a relic of days more barbarous than ours and to those who ask why the word “person” should include women, the obvious answer is why should it not.”
It all began when the five women, Emily Murphy, Irene Parlby, Nellie McClung, Henrietta Muir Edwards, and Louise Crummy McKinney assembled by invitation at Emily Murphy’s home for tea to discuss petitioning the Supreme Court whether women are persons according to the 1867 British North America Act, Canada’s defacto Constitution until April 17, 1982. On that date the Queen, Elizabeth II, arrived from London, England to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and signed the Canada Act, the new Constitution which included the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
My photo taken during my last trip to Ottawa and Parliament depicts Nellie McLung holding up the judgement ‘Women are Persons’ manuscript another standing with hand outstretched pointed towards Nellie while the other three are nearby Emily Murphy with a chair inviting the others, one sitting with a cup of tea in hand.
This monument is a replica of the original one unveiled in Calgary, Alberta in 1999, it was installed in 2000.