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Gender in Canada

This article is an overview of contemporary issues related to gender in Canada. Gender refers to the characteristics associated with women/girls and men/boys. These include norms, behaviours and roles. This article explores change and continuity in gender norms and roles in Canada since 1960. It also addresses current challenges and issues related to gender in Canada. Demographic changes, the women’s liberation movement and the sexual revolution caused and reflected major social changes in gender norms for women and men. While gender roles have become more flexible since the 1960s, the power of older norms and roles continues, as does the belief in a gender binary (the idea that there are only two genders: women and men). Contemporary issues around gender include pay equity; the “boy crisis”; the rights of trans, gender-diverse, non-binary and Two-Spirit persons; and the impact of colonial systems on traditional Indigenous gender roles.

Article

Gender Identity

The term “gender identity” refers to an individual’s sense of their own gender, or the gender they feel is most in keeping with how they see themselves.

Article

Gender Equity

The term “gender equity” refers to the belief that individuals of different genders require different levels of support to achieve true equality.

Article

History of Gender Roles in Canada

Over the course of several thousand years, gender roles in Canada have shifted dramatically. In general, they were more flexible in Indigenous societies and more rigid in settler communities. However, even in colonial times, gender roles were not as narrow as might be expected, particularly on farms and in frontier communities. Gender roles became stricter during the Victorian era, when men and women were relegated to “separate spheres.” Gender roles became more elastic during the world wars, but traditional gender norms were re-established in the 1950s. Since the 1960s, though, gender roles have become more flexible.

timeline event

Bill S-3

The remaining part of Bill S-3 came into effect. Bill S-3 was created in response to the Descheneaux case (2015), which was about gender discrimination in the Indian Act. The first part of the bill came into effect on 22 December 2017. Among other provisions, the amendment enables more people to pass down Indian Status to their descendants. It also reinstates status to those who lost it before 1985, and it restores status to women and their offspring who lost status before 1951 (known as the “1951 Cut-off”). According to the government, “All known sex-based inequities in the Indian Act have now been addressed.”

Article

James Barry

James Miranda Steuart Barry, FRS (probably born Margaret Anne Bulkley), military surgeon, physician (born c. 1789–99; died 25 July 1865 in London, England). Posted across the British Empire, Barry reformed medical standards in the British army. His final and highest-ranking position was as inspector-general of military hospitals in the Province of Canada in the 1850s. After his death, it was reported that Barry’s assigned sex at birth was female. This has sparked significant debate about his identity.

Note on pronouns: This article refers to James Barry with masculine pronouns, as this was how Barry referred to himself throughout his life.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Human Rights

Human rights are rights that we all have by virtue of our shared humanity. Depending on the nature of the right, both individuals and groups can assert human rights. Human rights as we understand them today are a relatively modern concept. All human rights are indivisible, interrelated and interdependent. None has automatic precedence over any other. The realization of human rights is a constant struggle on the part of people who suffer injustices and who seek redress. Human rights are an important part of the social fabric of Canadian society. Canadians have also played a role in the evolution of human rights on the international stage.