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.”
MP Arnold Chan died of cancer in September 2017 at the age of 50. A few months earlier, he rose to speak in the House of Commons. He was to address a motion put forward by the Conservative opposition criticizing the Liberal government’s record on the economy, but he used most of his speaking time to implore his fellow MPs to treat one another with civility and compassion in debate and to “ditch” their canned talking points.
Free trade is a timely topic in 2017 as Canada renegotiates NAFTA with the United States and Mexico. Back in 1998, Bob White was prominent ilabour leader in a citizens’ movement opposing the Free Trade Agreement with the United States. White made this speech to the convention of the United Fisherman and Allied Workers Union in Vancouver early in 1988.
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.
As Hitler attacked the Jews in the 1930s many of them sought refuge in other countries, including Canada. This country turned them away. That was deeply painful to A. A. Heaps, a CCF MP from Winnipeg, who rose to criticize the government’s inaction. Heaps was one of the few Jewish Members of Parliament.
In 1917, there was a divisive debate in Canada over military compulsory conscription. It was led by Conservative cabinet minister Arthur Meighen, who had drafted the legislation. That bill became the centrepiece of the bitterly contested “khaki election” which occurred in December 1917. The Conservatives won the election but divided the country. Brilliant, opinionated, and incisive, Meighen was one of Canada’s great parliamentary orators. He entered the conscription debate on June 17, and attacked the aging Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier who wanted the legislation be deferred and put to a national referendum. Here is Meighen’s speech:
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.