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Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case

Dr. Wendy Robbins: 2007 Award Receipient

Wendy Robbins - GG Award Recipient (C)UNB   Wendy Robbins And the Governor General (C)CP

2007 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case
Acceptance Speech by Wendy J. Robbins, October 17th, 2007

Excellence, Madame la Ministre, Sister recipients, Everyone here and here in spirit:

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this cherished award. It honours a long, unbroken line of women’s rights activists in Canada, and offers us all both testimony and inspiration.

Simone de Beauvoir a dit: “on ne naît pas femme, on le devient.” Moi, j’aime ajouter “on ne naît pas féministe, on le devient.” Here’s my story, in a nutshell.

I was born in Quebec in the 1940s, the decade that women in that province finally won the right to vote in provincial elections. Growing up under the repressive Duplessis regime, I learned that my mother, as a married woman, did not have the right to her own bank account.

In the 1970s, when I applied to do my PhD at Queen’s University, I discovered that there was a quota limiting the number of women admitted. The Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women documents several examples of such quotas.

In International Women’s Year, I gave birth to a daughter; the conjunction of those two things, IWY and Chimène, changed my life, both personally and professionally.

Work in women’s studies since that time all over the country has slowly and persistently managed to change what we teach and research in many disciplines.Women’s numbers have increased impressively in colleges and universities both as students and as faculty. Regrettably, there remain several “glass ceilings” and glaring differences amongst disciplines. Some of these are documented in the annual report card Ivory Towers: Feminist and Equity Audits.

Ces Vérifications féministes sont compilées avec Michèle Ollivier, une sociologue à l’Université d’Ottawa et une très chère amie. Michèle is also a co-founder and co-moderator of the online feminist discussion forum PAR-L, to which a number of you contribute. This web-based conversation helps foster a greater understanding of the issues confronting us today.

Michèle and I, with six other academic activists, and Rosemary Morgan, legal counsel at the Canadian Association of University Teachers, last year successfully negotiated at the Canadian Human Rights Commission to increase access for members of four equity groups to the billion-dollar Canada Research Chairs Program. It is a flagship program for Canadian research, so it matters significantly that it operate with transparency and fairness.

Equity is an avenue, not a barrier, to excellence. If we don’t ask all of the right questions, we are unlikely to get any of the right answers.

To conclude, we have made substantial, perhaps almost unimaginable, progress since the 1929 Persons Case. However a huge, almost overwhelming, amount remains to be done around the world, and also here at home, before women are truly equal citizens, with one another as well as with men.

Significant links :
bullet Status of Women Canada's Press Release on the 2007 Governor General's Award Recipients
bullet Profiles of all the 2007 Governor General's Award Recipients
bullet UNB Press Release: UNB Professor Wins Governor General Persons Award
bullet Irene Mathyssen, MP: Persons Day Statement
bullet The Telegraph-Journal: Wendy Robbins receives national award for her contributions toward equality for women
bullet Daily Gleaner: UNB professor honoured in Ottawa
bullet Son Excellence la très honorable Michaëlle Jean Discours à l’occasion de la remise du Prix du Gouverneur général en commémoration de l’affaire « personne »
bullet Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean Speech on the Occasion of the Presentation of the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case

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