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Article

Polytechnique Tragedy

On December 6, 1989, a young man, Marc Lépine, burst into a class at Montréal's École Polytechnique armed with an automatic weapon. He separated the male and female students and fired point blank on the latter screaming, "You are all feminists." Fourteen young women were murdered and 13 other people wounded. Lépine then turned his gun on himself and committed suicide. Later, a list of eminent women was found whom he had identified as "feminists to slaughter."

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​The École Polytechnique Tragedy: Beyond the Duty of Remembrance

Every year on 6 December, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the women who lost their lives in the massacre are remembered. While flags are flown at half-mast, vigils, conferences and demonstrations are held in remembrance. Despite these efforts, assigning meaning to the shooting has stirred controversy — and continues to do so.

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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in Canada

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada (MMIWG) refers to a human rights crisis that has only recently become a topic of discussion within national media. Indigenous women and communities, women’s groups and international organizations have long called for action into the high and disproportionate rates of violence and the appalling numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Prior to the launch of the national public inquiry on 8 December 2015, these calls were continually ignored by the federal government. Described by some as a hidden crisis, Dawn Lavell-Harvard, former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, refers to MMIWG as a national tragedy and a national shame. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada supported the call for a national public inquiry into the disproportionate victimization of Indigenous women and girls. The National Inquiry’s Final Report was completed and presented to the public on 3 June 2019.

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Frances Oldham Kelsey

​Frances Oldham Kelsey, CM, pharmacologist (born 24 July 1914 in Cobble Hill, BC; died 7 August 2015 in London, ON). As an employee of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Kelsey blocked the sale of thalidomide in the United States. The drug, which had been widely prescribed in Europe and Canada, was later shown to cause severe birth defects in children whose mothers had taken the drug while pregnant. In recognition of her “exceptional judgment” and determination, Kelsey received the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service. Kelsey and her work have been widely lauded in the United States but are less known in Canada. She was made a Member of the Order of Canada shortly before her death.

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Brooke Henderson

Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, golfer (born 10 September 1997 in Smiths Falls, ON). Golf phenom Brooke Henderson has won the Bobbie Rosenfeld Award as Canada’s best female athlete three times (2015, 2017, 2018), as well as the ESPY Award for best female golfer in 2019. She is the youngest golfer ever to win a professional golf tournament (at age 14), the youngest ever to win the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship (at age 15), and the second youngest female golfer ever to win a major title (at age 18). She holds the record for most victories (nine) by a Canadian professional golfer on either the PGA or LPGA Tour, beating the previous record of eight held by George Knudson, Sandra Post and Mike Weir. In 2015, she became the first Canadian to win on the LPGA Tour since Lorie Kane in 2001. In 2016, Henderson became the second Canadian woman to win a major tournament (since Post in 1968) and the second Canadian ever to win the CP Women’s Open (after Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973).

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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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Lady Grey

Alice, Countess Grey, viceregal consort of Canada from 1904 to 1911 (born 18 November 1858 in London, United Kingdom; died 22 September 1944 in Lowood, United Kingdom).

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Women and the Quiet Revolution

The Quebec of the 1960s was synonymous with the Quiet Revolution. The mandate of the Liberal government led by Jean Lesage, which began with the election on 22 June 1960, marked a period of significant reforms. Political, economical, social, cultural — these reforms had major repercussions on the people of Quebec and drastically changed the lives of women. With the creation of a Ministry of Education, women obtained the same right to higher education as men. Additionally, Bill 16 conferred in principle full legal capacity to married women. The reformist spirit was also at work within the Union Nationale governments of Daniel Johnson, Sr., from 1966 to 1968 and Jean-Jacques Bertrand from 1968 to 1970. Finally, it was during the Quiet Revolution that women in Quebec began to use contraceptive pills to control their fertility, entered the workforce in large numbers and demanded maternity leave as well as the right to equality with men in all areas of public life.

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#MeToo Movement in Canada

The #MeToo movement protesting sexual violence against women began in the United States in October 2017 in the wake of accusations against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, it has rapidly expanded internationally through Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. In Canada, #MeToo and its French equivalent, #MoiAussi, have amplified the voices of victims and changed the conversation pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence, harassment and misconduct.

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Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell, O.C., Cree-Métis writer, playwright, filmmaker, scholar, teacher and elder (born 26 April 1940 in Park Valley, SK). Campbell’s memoir Halfbreed (1973) is regarded as a foundational piece of Indigenous literature in Canada for its attention to the discrimination, oppression and poverty that some Métis women (and Indigenous people, in general) experience in Canada. Campbell has authored several other books and plays, and has directed and written scripts for a number of films. As an artist, Campbell has worked with Indigenous youth in community theatre and advocated for the hiring and recognition of Indigenous people in the arts. She has mentored many Indigenous artists during her career.

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Catharine Parr Traill

Catharine Parr Traill, née Strickland, pioneer writer, botanist (born 9 January 1802 in London, England; died 29 August 1899 in Lakefield, ON). Catharine Parr Traill’s books are some of the earliest in the Canadian literary canon. Works such as The Backwoods of Canada: Being Letters from the Wife of an Emigrant Officer (1836) offer detailed descriptions of pioneer life in Canada, while Canadian Wildflowers (1868) and Studies of Plant Life in Canada (1885) showcase her skill as an amateur botanist.

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Kathleen Wynne

Kathleen O’Day Wynne, 25th premier of Ontario 2013–18, member of provincial parliament 2003–present, school trustee, community activist, mediator, teacher (born 21 May 1953 in Toronto, ON). The skills of a mediator, coupled with a strong sense of will, propelled Kathleen Wynne’s political career, making her Ontario’s first woman premier and Canada’s first openly gay head of government.

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Highway of Tears

The Highway of Tears refers to a 724 km length of Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia where many women (mostly Indigenous) have disappeared or been found murdered. The Highway of Tears is part of a larger, national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2015, the federal government launched a national inquiry into these cases.

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Education Guide

Women in Canadian History Education Guide

As we celebrate a century of women’s suffrage, it’s important to recognize that while this victory was a landmark achievement, social change and the push for equality weren’t born from, nor completed by, achieving the right to vote. Women in Canada have played a crucial role in the story of the past and how it shapes the present. Women’s history seeks to write women back into the parts of the narrative from which they have been omitted, with the goal of telling a more complete story.

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Indigenous Feminisms in Canada

At their root, Indigenous feminisms examine how gender and conceptions of gender influence the lives of Indigenous peoples, historically and today. Indigenous feminist approaches challenge stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, gender and sexuality, for instance, as they appear in politics, society and the media. Indigenous feminisms offer frameworks for learning about and understanding these, and other issues, regardless of one’s gender or ethnicity.

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Canadian Women and War

Canada has been involved in various wars from the beginning of its colonial history. Just as the nature of these wars has changed over time, so too has their effect on Canadian women. Women have actively participated in war, from nursing and munitions manufacturing during the First and Second World Wars to the increasing involvement of Canadian women in the military.