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Milestones in Canadian Women's History: the 1980's

[ 1981 | 1982 | 1983 | 1984 | 1985 | 1986 | 1987 | 1988 | 1989 ]

    bullet Alexa McDonough is elected leader of the New Democratic Party of Nova Scotia, becoming the first women first woman leader of a provincial political party in Canada.
    bullet the Supreme Court of Canada rules that Rosa Becker is entitled to the farm and bee-keeping business she had built up with her common-law husband of 17 years. Overruling an earlier decision that found that Rosa Becker's contribution to the relationship "was in the nature of risk capital invested in the hope of seducing a younger defendant into marriage," the Court supports an Ontario Court of Appeal decision. Becker's ex-husband fought the award through a variety of means. She eventually collected $68,000 from the sale of property, but it was applied in its entirety to expenses incurred by her lawyer in his 11-year fight on her behalf. In November 1986, a bitter and destitute Becker shot herself to protest an unjust justice system.
    bullet Kateri Tekakwitha is beatified. Known largely for her chastity, Tekakwith becomes the first North American Aboriginal candidate for sainthood. For Roman Catholics, beatufication is the first step on the road to canonization.
    bullet the Congress of Black Women is founded in Winnipeg.
    bullet La Vie en rose, the Quebec feminist magazine, begins publication.

    bullet some 1,300 women from across the country gather on Parliament Hill for a national conference on Women and the Constitution. Organized by an ad hoc committee of women in Ottawa and Toronto following the postponement of a similar conference by the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the conference galvanized women's opposition to proposed changes to the Constitution and mobilized them to fight those changes.
    bullet Judy Erola, a Sudbury Member of Parliament, is appointed the first woman Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.
    bullet Studio D of the National Film Board releases Not A Love Story, a feminist film about pornography. Its presentation in Ontario is restricted by the Ontario Film Board because of its explicit content.

    bullet Wimmin's Fire Brigade fire-bombs Red Hot Video, a Vancouver video outlet allegedly dealing in pornographic video cassettes.
    bullet Bertha Wilson is appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada, becoming the first woman appointed to the country's highest court.
    bullet Marguerite Bourgeoys is canonized. Bourgeoys, the founder of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame de Montréal, is the first Canadian woman officially recognized as a saint, There are thus more Canadian women saints than women bank presidents.

    bullet Judge Rosalie Abella is appointed to lead a one-woman Royal Commission on Equality in Employment. Abella coins the expression "employment equity" to describe those programs and practices necessary to bring about workplace equality for women and other disadvantaged groups. Her report is tabled in 1984.
    bullet 16 of 282 Members of Parliament are women.
    bullet women are 56% of full-time undergraduate students in Canadian universities.
    bullet the Ontario Federation of Labour becomes the first trade union body in Canada to designate affirmative action seats for women on its executive. Other unions quickly follow suit.
    bullet federal Energy Minister Pat Carney is denied admission to the all-male inner sanctum of Calgary's Petroleum Club.
    bullet using statistics from the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, NDP MP Margaret Mitchell raises the issue of wife battering during a speech in the House of Commons. Male MPs respond with laughter and catcalls.
    bullet the first - and thus far only - televised debate on women's issues between the three major federal parties is held. Organized by NAC, the event is picketed by R.E.A.L. Women.
    bullet in the federal election, 27 women are elected to the House of Commons. Six are appointed to the Cabinet.
    bullet Pauktuutit, the Inuit Women's Association, is incorporated.
    bullet the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) is founded.
    bullet section 15, the main equality rights section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, comes into effect on April 17.
    bullet Manitoba becomes the first province in Canada to pass pay equity legislation for its public-sector employees.
    bullet section 12(l) (b) of the Indian Act is repealed, allowing Indian women to marry non-Indian men without losing their Indian status.
    bullet the DisAbled Women's Network (DAWN) is founded. DAWN offers support, information, and resources to women with disabilities.
    bullet l'R des centres de femmes du Québec, an association of women's centres, is founded.
    bullet the federal government launches the Court Challenges Program, a $9-million fund designed to help individuals and organizations launch or participate in test case litigation concerning the equality rights provisions of the Charter. The Program is cancelled in 1992 amid protests from equality-seeking groups.
    bullet the federal government promises to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to end discrimination against lesbians and gay men. In the dying days of 1992 it finally tables a proposal roundly denounced by human rights activists as inadequate. In the interim it fights all cases brought forward by lesbians and gay men.
    bullet governmental delegates gather in Nairobi, Kenya, to debate and ratify the United Nations Foward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women document. A parallel conference, Forum '85, brings together 13,000 women from around the globe to assess women's progress and chart strategies for the future.
    bullet the federal government passes employment equity legislation covering women, Aboriginal people, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities.
    bullet Sharon Wood of Canmore, Alberta, becomes the first North American woman to scale Mount Everest.
    bullet unionization of women is increasing nearly six times as quickly as unionization of men, and women are 36% of all unionized workers.
    bullet Shirley Carr becomes the first woman president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
    bullet the National Organization of Immigrant and Visible Minority Women of Canada (NOIVMWC) is founded. NOIVMWC works to ensure equality for immigrant and visible minority women.
    bullet a poll of Chatelaine magazine readers reveals that 47% are willing to identify themselves as feminists.
    bullet 73% of Canadians believe that the "feminist movement" has had a positive, not negative, impact on Canadian society.
    bullet Claire L'Heureux-Dubé is the first francophone woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
    bullet 4.5% of the 39,000 works of art in the National Gallery are created by women.
    bullet Toronto altar girl Sandra Bernier files a complaint against the Roman Catholic Church when she is denied the right to participate in a special mass presided over by the Archbishop.
    bullet Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and ten provincial Premiers - all men - gather behind closed doors at a government retreat at Meech Lake, Quebec, emerging with a proposed package of constitutional reforms known as the Meech Lake Accord. All ten provincial legislatures and the federal Parliament must ratify the Accord within three years in order for the amendments to be adopted.
    bullet the Supreme Court rules in favour of a small Montreal women's group, Action travail des femmes, in an action against the Canadian National Railways, ending a ten-year legal fight. The Court declares that the Canadian Human Rights Commission can impose employment equity on companies.
    bullet La Vie en rose ceases publication.
    bullet feminists launch a campaign for a Royal Commission on the new reproductive technologies.
    bullet the Supreme Court of Canada declares Canada's abortion law unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates a woman's right to life, liberty, and security of the person.
    bullet Justine Blainey plays her first minor-bantam league hockey game. It marks the culmination of her four-year fight for the right to play hockey in a boys' league. Blainey had taken her case to the Ontario Court of Appeal which found that a clause in the Ontario Human Rights Code permitting sex discrimination in sports was unconstitutional.
    bullet the federal government announces a $2-miflion cut from the Secretary of State's Women's Program. Women's groups mount a partially successful campaign to have their funding restored.
    bullet Chantale Daigle goes all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight an injunction preventing her from having an abortion. The Court rules in Daigle's favour, confirming a woman's right to decide whether or not to bear children. The Daigle case galvanizes public support for women's right to choose whether or not to bear children.
    bullet the federal government appoints a Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, chaired by Dr. Patricia Baird.
    bullet 25 Canadian universities have Women's Studies programs.
    bullet Audrey McLaughlin becomes the first woman leader of a federal party, the New Democratic Party. She is first elected to the House of Commons in 1987.
    bullet Genevièe Bergeron, Hélène Colgan, Nathalie Croteau, Barbara Daigneault, Anne-Marie Edward, Maud Havernick, Barbara Mafia Klueznick, Maryse Laganière, Maryse Leclair, Anne-Marie Lemay, Sonia Pelletier, Michèle Richard, Annie St-Arneault, and Annie Turcotte are killed when Marc Lépine opens fire in Montreal's École Polytechnique before turning his weapon on himself. The Montreal Massacre, as it comes to be known, provokes discussion throughout the country about violence against women and gun control.


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