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Palbinder Kaur Shergill

Palbinder Kaur Shergill, QC, judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in New Westminster (born in Rurka Kalan, Punjab, India). Shergill spent 26 years practising law before she was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. She was the first turbaned Sikh woman to be appointed as a judge in Canada.

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Helen Mamayaok Maksagak

Helen Mamayaok Maksagak, CM, politician, public servant, community leader (born 15 April 1931 in Bernard Harbour, NT [NU]; died 23 January 2009 in Cambridge Bay, NU). Maksagak was the first woman and Inuk to serve as the commissioner of the Northwest Territories. A vocal and engaged advocate for Inuit affairs, she contributed to efforts to establish Nunavut as Canada’s third territory in the 1990s. In March of 1999, she was chosen as the first commissioner of the newly created Nunavut territory; her term lasted until March 2000. Maksagak returned to a formal political role in November 2005, when she was appointed deputy commissioner of Nunavut. In addition to her political career, Maksagak performed advocacy work, focusing on Inuit and, more broadly, Indigenous initiatives, such as improving access to social services.

Article

Gloria George

Gloria Mary Maureen George, Indigenous politician, activist and public servant (born 24 July 1942 in Hubert, BC). A tireless advocate for non-status Indians, George was elected president of the Native Council of Canada in 1975, becoming the first and only woman to lead a major Indigenous political organization.

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Idola Saint-Jean

Idola Saint-Jean, feminist and pioneer in the fight for women’s suffrage (born 19 May 1880 in Montreal, QC; died 6 April 1945 in Montreal). The first woman from Quebec to run as a candidate in a federal election, she devoted over 20 years of her life to active efforts to improve women’s legal rights.

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Viola Desmond

Viola Irene Desmond (née Davis), businesswoman, civil rights activist (born 6 July 1914 in Halifax, NS; died 7 February 1965 in New York, NY). Viola Desmond built a career and business as a beautician and was a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia through her Desmond School of Beauty Culture. In 1946, Viola Desmond challenged racial discrimination when she refused to leave the segregated Whites-only section of the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. Viola Desmond was arrested, jailed overnight and convicted without legal representation for an obscure tax offence as a result. Despite the efforts of the Nova Scotian Black community to assist her appeal, Viola Desmond was unable to remove the charges against her and went unpardoned in her lifetime. Desmond’s courageous refusal to accept an act of racial discrimination provided inspiration to later generations of Black persons in Nova Scotia and in the rest of Canada. In 2010, Lieutenant-GovernorMayann Francis issued Desmond a free pardon. In December 2016, the Bank of Canada announced that Viola Desmond would be the first Canadian woman to be featured by herself on the face of a banknote — the $10 note released on 19 November 2018. Viola Desmond was named a National Historic Person by the Canadian government in 2018.

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Lady Lansdowne

Maud Evelyn Petty-Fitzmaurice, Marchioness of Lansdowne, viceregal consort of Canada from 1883 to 1888 and Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Alexandra (born 17 December 1850 in Strabane, Ireland; died 21 October 1932 in London, United Kingdom).

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10 Interesting Facts About Queen Elizabeth II

In 2022, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Over the course of her record-breaking reign, the Queen witnessed unprecedented social, cultural and political change and travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom, Canada and the wider Commonwealth. Here are 10 interesting facts about the long and eventful life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Article

Michelle Stilwell

Michelle “Mikey” Stilwell (née Bauknecht), wheelchair basketball player, wheelchair racer, politician (born 4 July 1974 in Winnipeg, MB). Michelle Stilwell is the only Canadian woman to win gold medals in two sports at the Paralympic Games. She and the Canadian team won gold in women’s wheelchair basketball at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney. Stilwell also won gold in women’s wheelchair racing at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Paralympic Games. From 2006 to 2016, she was the fastest wheelchair racer in the world in the T52-class; she currently holds world records in the women’s 100 m and 200 m. She also served as a BC MLA for Parksville-Qualicum from 2013 to 2020.

Article

Roberta Jamieson

Roberta Louise Jamieson, OC, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) lawyer, ombudsman, Six Nations chief, policy advisor, senior mediator, businesswoman (born in 1953 at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory near Brantford, ON). Jamieson was the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree (1976); first non-Parliamentarian appointed to a House of Commons committee (1982); first woman appointed ombudsman in Ontario (1989); and first woman elected as Six Nations chief (2001).

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Thelma Chalifoux

Thelma Julia Chalifoux, Métis, senator, entrepreneur, activist (born 8 February 1929 in Calgary, AB; died 22 September 2017 in St. Albert, AB). Chalifoux was the first Métis woman appointed to the Senate of Canada. As a senator, she was concerned with a range of issues, including Métis housing, drug company relations with the federal government, and environmental legislation. An ardent advocate for women’s and Indigenous rights, Chalifoux was involved in organizations such as the Aboriginal Women’s Business Development Corporation and the Métis Women’s Council. She was also known for her work in the protection of Métis culture, having served in the Alberta Métis Senate and Michif Cultural and Métis Resource Institute (now Michif Cultural Connections).

Article

Mary Simon

Mary Jeannie May Simon (Ningiukudluk); diplomat, civil servant, (born 21 August 1947 in Kangirsualujjuaq, Nunavik, QC). Simon is an advocate for international cooperation in the Arctic and Indigenous education and rights. She has held multiple roles in the civil service, including secretary and co-director of policy of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, secretary to the board of directors of the Northern Quebec Inuit Association, and member of the Nunavut Implementation Commission. She was also the first vice president of the Makivik Corporation and the first Inuk in Canada to hold the rank of ambassador. Simon has served as the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and of what is now the Inuit Circumpolar Council. On 26 July 2021, Simon became Canada’s 30th Governor General and the first Indigenous person to serve in that role.

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Tilly Rolston

Tilly Jean Rolston, Canadian politician (born 23 February 1887 in Vancouver, BC; died 12 October 1953 in Vancouver, BC). Rolston was best known for her service as education minister for the province of British Columbia in the Social Credit government of W.A.C. Bennett in the early 1950s. She has the distinction of being the second woman cabinet minister elected in that province, but the first with a portfolio in all of Canada. Rolston was instrumental in developing a new financing formula for the funding of BC’s public schools, and also instituted the province’s first sex education curriculum. She is noted for being the first woman in British Columbia to receive a state funeral upon her death.

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Mary John Batten

Mary John Batten (née Fodchuk), lawyer, politician, justice and chief justice of the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench (born 30 August 1921 in Sifton, MB; died 9 October 2015). Mary John Batten was the first Ukrainian Canadian woman elected to a Canadian legislature. She served as an MLA in Saskatchewan from 1956 until 1964. That year, she became the first woman to be appointed as a federal judge in Saskatchewan, and only the second in Canada. In 1983, she became Saskatchewan’s first female chief justice. She also chaired a Saskatchewan royal commission. She retired from the bench in 1989.

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Persons Case

The Persons Case (Edwards v. A.G. of Canada) was a constitutional ruling that established the right of women to be appointed to the Senate. The case was initiated by the Famous Five, a group of prominent women activists. In 1928, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that women were not “persons” according to the British North America Act (now called the Constitution Act, 1867). Therefore, they were ineligible for appointment to the Senate. However, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council reversed the Court’s decision on 18 October 1929. The Persons Case enabled women to work for change in both the House of Commons and the Senate. It also meant that women could no longer be denied rights based on a narrow interpretation of the law.