The Right Honourable Kim Campbell, Canada's 19th prime minister, delivers a free, public keynote address at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) on January 27, the eve of the 100th anniversary of women first winning the right to vote and hold elected office in Canada.
"It is a fitting tribute to the struggles of Nellie McClung and the suffragists of 100 years ago that we welcome the first Canadian woman to hold the highest political office in this land," said CMHR president and CEO John Young. "But we also need to remember that not all women won the vote in 1916. It took a lot more work by many more people. And today, Kim Campbell continues to work for further improvements to women's rights and gender equity."
Beginning at the age of 16, when she became the first female student body president of her high school, Campbell has spent much of her life breaking barriers for women. In recent years, she has been a strong advocate for gender parity in the Canadian electoral system, arguing that both a male and female Member of Parliament should be elected from every riding.
In 2014, she received the Nation Building Award from Famous 5 Ottawa – an organization dedicated to inspire and educate women in the legacy of the "Famous Five," who won the "Persons Case" at the Supreme Court in 1929. The case – argued by McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, Henrietta Edwards and Irene Parlby – legally established women as "persons" eligible for appointment to the Senate. A briefcase owned by McKinney – who was also the first woman ever elected to political office in Canada (to the Alberta legislature in 1917) – is on display in the CMHR, along with the story of the Persons Case and dozens more exhibits about women's rights.
Campbell's speech takes place on January 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Museum's Bonnie & John Buhler Hall, and will also be live-streamed on humanrights.ca. There is no charge, but capacity is limited. Regular fees apply for admission to Museum galleries, which are open until 9 p.m. that day.
The event kicks off a year-long special focus on women's rights at Canada's new national museum, in honour of the centenary. The first legislation to empower women to vote and hold office was passed in Manitoba on January 28, 1916. However, many women – including Indigenous women – continued to be denied the right to vote until the 1960s.
On January 28, 2016, the CMHR partners with the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, the Honourable Janice Filmon, and the Manitoba Museum to offer a day of programming for high school students with women leaders, including Campbell.
On February 12, the CMHR opens its first-ever outdoor exhibition – Let Them Howl: 100 Years in the Women's Rights Struggle, at Festival du Voyageur in Winnipeg. The exhibit, developed in partnership with Library and Archives Canada, features 12 large portraits of Canadian women who have broken gender barriers: from McClung to Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, Rosemary Brown and Bertha Clark Jones.