Maclean’s magazine hosted its annual Parliamentarians of the Year Award in Ottawa early in November 2017. The magazine presented a lifetime achievement award to Monique Bégin, who served as an influential cabinet minister in Pierre Trudeau’s governments, most notably as the minister of health and welfare. After leaving politics in 1984, Bégin pursued an academic career, including 11 years at the University of Ottawa. In her acceptance speech, she talked about male power and women’s equality in the context of numerous allegations about sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment and news industries and in politics. A significant portion of Bégin’s remarks follow here. The full text of her address is available on the Maclean’s site.
Agnes Macphail was the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons, and after taking her seat early in 1922 she encountered many taunts and inappropriate treatment. Undaunted, she demanded the full equality of women. These are brief excerpts from speeches Macphail made in the House of Commons regarding existing divorce laws.
“I want for myself what I want for other women — absolute equality.”
Lady Ishbel Aberdeen was a force of nature and just happened to be the wife of Canada’s governor-general. She pushed the envelope on the role of women in Canadian society. Here she spoke to the founding meeting of the Local Council of Women in Victoria in 1894.
Activist Nellie McClung was prominent among those advocating for women to get the vote in Manitoba. When she and others met with Premier Rodmond Roblin in 1914, he flatly refused their request. The following evening that meeting was turned into a piece of guerrilla theatre. McClung played the premier’s role and mimicked his inflated rhetoric in a mock speech which she made to a fictitious group of men appearing before women legislators asking for the right to vote.