Timeline

Feminist organizing from the 1970s to the 1990s brought substantial change to the social, political, economic, and cultural landscape of Canada. Rise Up’s goal is to build a timeline of significant moments, contributions, and turning points of this era. We would particularly like to capture those events that reflect the activism documented on this website.

We have started with a very few items to give you an idea of what we plan to do. We will be adding many more in the the weeks to come. We encourage you to let us know about other highlights that should be part of this herstory.

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Help us add to this timeline. Let us know the date and event you'd like to suggest for the timeline.




1960

“Status Indian” women (and men) get the right to vote federally

1960

On July 1, 1960, women and men identified as Status Indians under the Indian Act are granted the right to vote in federal elections without losing their treaty status. In 1867 Status Indians were given the right to vote on condition that they gave up their status. The decision to extend the right in 1960 was made by the federal government without serious consultation with Indian people. Inuit people were enfranchised in 1950 but were rarely enumerated and ballot…

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1965

Ontario Federation of Labour sets up its first women’s committee.

1965

In 1965 the Ontario Federation of Labour establishes its first women’s committee, chaired by Grace Hartman, then a Vice-President of Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and, later the National President. Hartman also serves as President of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in 1974-75.  The committee lapses after several years but in 1975 (International Women’s Year), a motion was brought to the Ontario Federation of Labour Convention to form a new OFL Women’s Committee. Although the motion did not come to a vote at Convention, it did receive approval at the Executive Board and the Committee was set up in 1976.

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1966

Committee for the Equality of Women in Canada formed

1966

Representatives from 32 women’s groups formed the Committee for the Equality of Women in Canada (CEWC) on May 3, 1966, to lobby for a royal commission on the status of women. Laura Sabia, President of the Canadian Federation of University Women, organized a meeting of representatives from 32 women’s groups. Fifty women attended, representing 32 organizations such as the National Council of Women, the YWCA, Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Zontas, Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), the Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario, Voice of Women, and the Catholic Women’s League. They agreed to form the Committee for the Equality of Women in Canada (CEWC) and to lobby for a royal commission on the status of women. The Committee organized a major campaign, including extensive media coverage. Judy LaMarsh, the only woman in the Cabinet and Secretary of State from 1965 to 1968, supported their efforts. Laura Sabia threatened a march of two million women on Parliament Hill if the government did not implement a commission.

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1966

British Columbia introduces maternity leave.

1966

British Columbia led the way for new mothers when they introduced the Maternity Protection Act of 1966 giving women rights to maternity leave. In 1970 the rest of Canada followed when maternity leave was granted as part of the Canada Labour Code.

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1967

United Nations Proclaims Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

1967

On 7 November 1967, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopts Resolution 2263(XXII): Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Article 1 of the Declaration states: Discrimination against women, denying or limiting as it does their equality of rights with men, is fundamentally unjust and constitutes an offence against human dignity. This Declaration paves the way for the legally binding agreement in 1979: The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Canada ratified CEDAW in 1981.

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1968

Mary Two-Axe Earley makes submission to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women

1968

Mary Two-Axe Earley makes submission to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women

In 1968 Mary Two-Axe Earley made a submission to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women protesting the Indian Act and advocating for gender equality. Mary was born on the Kanawake Mohawk territory near Montreal but lost her status when she married a non-status man. However, under the Act, men who married non-status women retained their status and were able to pass it on to their children. Two-Axe Earley’s call for an end to gender discrimination resulted in a recommendation by the Royal Commission to amend the Indian Act in its treatment of women. Finally, in 1985, the Federal Government passed Bill C-31…

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1970

Report of The Royal Commission on the Status of Women released

1970

Report of The Royal Commission on the Status of Women released

The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was established in February 1967 by the Pearson Liberal government in response to pressure from national women’s groups, especially the Committee on Equality for Women (1966-1971). Its mandate was “to inquire and report upon the status of women in Canada, and to recommend what steps might be taken by the Federal Government to ensure for women equal opportunities with men in all aspects of Canadian Society”. The Commission, chaired by Florence Bird, toured the country in 1967-68 and reported in 1970. It held public hearings in 14 cities in all provinces and territories, most of which were broadcast on the CBC. It received 469 briefs and about 1000 letters and it commissioned 34 studies. The Report of the Commission included 488 pages…

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1970

Protest! Abortion Caravan to Ottawa

1970

Protest! Abortion Caravan to Ottawa

First national protest against the abortion laws calls for their repeal. In April – May 1970 the Vancouver Women’s Caucus organizes the Abortion Caravan, the first national feminist protest. Women travel over 3,000 miles from Vancouver to Ottawa, gathering numbers as they go. In Ottawa, the Abortion Caravan, now 500 women strong, holds two days of demonstrations. Thirty women chain themselves to the parliamentary gallery in the House of Commons, closing Parliament for the first time in Canadian history.

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1970

Morgentaler charged with conspiracy to commit abortion

1970

Dr Henry Morgentaler’s Montreal office is raided by the police and he is charged with conspiracy to perform an abortion in June 1970. Between 1970 and 1975, Dr. Morgentaler receives more than 10 criminal charges. In November 1973, a Montreal jury of 11 men and one woman acquit Morgentaler. In an unprecedented move, the Quebec Court of Appeal overturns the jury verdict and finds Morgentaler guilty in 1974. The doctor appeals his case to the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1975, the court votes 6-3 to uphold the Quebec Court’s conviction and Morgentaler is sentenced to eighteen months in prison. While serving his sentence, he is tried on a second charge. A jury acquits him again, and the Quebec Court of Appeal upholds that acquittal.

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1970

First! Canadian Women’s Liberation Movement Conference

1970

The first cross-country conference of the emerging feminist movement in Canada takes place in Saskatoon on November 20-21, 1970 with over 200 women attending. The conference is organized to discuss the way forward for the Canadian women’s liberation movement. Marlene Dixon is a keynote speaker.

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1972

SORWUC formed to organise women workers

1972

SORWUC formed to organise women workers

The Service, Office and Retail Workers Union of Canada (SORWUC), a feminist union, is formed to organize workers in women-dominated occupations that were often not represented by unions at that time. It was designed to be membership driven and had considerable success in the first 5 or 6 years, especially in British Columbia where it originated.  SORWUC faced huge opposition from employers, especially the banks, and also received little support from the rest of the labour movement. It disbanded in 1986.

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1973

Supreme Court Rules Against Irene Murdoch in Family Property Case

1973

Irene Murdoch goes to court arguing that as a farm woman, in a divorce, she should be entitled to financial recognition of her contribution to the farm economy. In 1973, The Supreme Court rules that the farm belongs to her husband. Married women were entitled to support during marriage and maintenance after marriage breakup in return for domestic duties and sexual availability, but were not recognised as making an economic contribution to family property. The outcry against this decision played a role in the 1977 reforms to matrimonial property laws which recognise the economic contribution of women’s domestic labour.

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1975

First! Rosemary Brown runs for leadership of the New Democratic Party

1975

Rosemary Brown challenges barriers when she becomes  the first woman and the first Black person to contest the leadership of a national political party. First elected in 1972 as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in British Columbia, Brown runs a  strong campaign to head the federal  New Democratic Party in 1975, coming in a close second to Ed…

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1975

International Women’s Year

1975

The United Nations designates 1975 as International Women’s Year (Resolution No. 3275 of the General Assembly of the United Nations) to “promote equality between men and women” and to emphasize “women’s responsibility and important role in economic, social and cultural development at the national, regional and international levels” of society. The first UN conference on women is held in Mexico, 19 June -2 July 1975. Canada was a signatory so obliged to carry out the terms of the resolution. The federal government recognized International Women’s Year with a campaign called “Why Not?” and allocated $5 million for five regional conferences. Doris…

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1977

Sandra Lovelace appeals against the injustice of Canada’s Indian Act

1977

Sandra Lovelace, an aboriginal woman from Tobique Reserve in New Brunswick, appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in 1977 against the injustice of Canada’s Indian Act which gave native status through the male head of the household. Lovelace lost her Native status when she married a white man. In 1979, the UNHRC asked the Canadian Government for information pertaining to the Lovelace case. The government ignored the request so Tobique women organised the Native Women’s Walk. The UNHRC ruled in Lovelace’s favour in July 1981, finding Canada in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The law was changed in 1985, but it took ten years for Lovelace to recover her status. During the program Our Native Land: Native women fight for equal rights which aired on CBC in 1985, Sandra Lovelace talked about being labelled a “troublemaker.” In 2005, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas became the first Indigenous woman appointed to the Senate.

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1978

Take Back the Night March

1978

The first Take Back the Night Marches are organized in cities across the country to protest rape and other forms of sexual violence against women and to reclaim the streets. The Vancouver march in 1978  was organized by an ad hoc group known as the “Fly-by-Night” collective on unceded Coast Salish Territory.  In 1981, The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres declared that Take Back the Night marches would be held on the third Friday in September so women would be marching on the same night all across Canada .

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1978

Wives Supporting the INCO Strikers, September 1978- June 1979

1978

Wives Supporting the INCO Strikers, September 1978- June 1979

As part of a bitter eight and a half month long strike (15 September 1978 – 7 June 1979) by United Steelworkers Local 6500 at INCO, women in the Sudbury community organise Wives Supporting the Strike. They build support around the country that brings together unions and feminist groups. Wives Supporting the Strike also provide practical support in their community, including a…

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1979

First! Bi-national Lesbian Conference in Toronto

1979

First! Bi-national Lesbian Conference in Toronto

Members of the Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT) organize the first Bi-National Lesbians Conference/Conférence Lesbienne Bi-Nationale. The conference goals include providing an opportunity to exchange experiences and ideas, share culture, develop a common direction, and form a communication network to strengthen the movement across the country.

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1980

Unemployment Insurance recognises fisher women’s work

1980

Fishermen’s wives get jobless benefits as unemployment insurance is granted to an estimated 10,000 women working with their husbands. In 1980, the federal unemployment insurance (UI) program recognizes that many women work with their husbands in the fisheries, contributing to total family income, and they become eligible for UI payments out of season. This decision  reverses the 1957 rule which extended UI to self-employed fishermen, but denied benefits to their…

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1981

Section 28 adopted into draft of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

1981

Section 28 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms states the following: “Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.” In February 1981, the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women (CACSW) planned a conference for women to discuss the potential impact of the entrenched charter of rights being proposed as part of the constitutional patriation process. The federal government cancelled the conference and, in response, Doris Anderson, President of the CACSW, resigned in protest. Feminist groups organized a counter conference and formed a coalition, the Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution. On 14 February 1981 about 1,300 women met…

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1982

Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care starts to organize

1982

In the spring of 1981, groups concerned about child care start to develop a strategy to get more government funding and action for day care. The Ontario Federation of Labour and Action Day Care hold public forums across Ontario which results in the formation of an ongoing coalition in 1982 made up of 17 member organizations.  The goals of the newly formed Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care include promoting more and better daycare, increasing public awareness about needs, preparing a brief to the Ontario Cabinet, and organizing a…

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1984

The term “employment equity” is coined

1984

The term “employment equity” is coined

The Royal Commission on Equality in Employment chaired by Judge Rosalie Abella coined the term “employment equity” (as opposed to the controversial term “affirmative action”). The Report recognized four social groups who were historically discriminated against in the paid labour force by rules and practices developed for white, able-bodied male workers: women, visible minorities, Natives, people with disabilities

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1985

Sister Vision Black Women and Women of Colour Press Founded

1985

Sister Vision Black Women and Women of Colour Press is established by Stephanie Martin and Makeda Silvera in 1985. The Press publishes books by and for women of colour, focusing on women’s oral history, creative writing, children and young people, and theory and research on the political and social lives of Black and Third World women from a feminist perspective. The Library and Archives Canada collection includes…

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1986

First! June Veecock becomes Human Rights Director at Ontario Federation of Labour

1986

First!  June Veecock becomes Human Rights Director at Ontario Federation of Labour

June Veecock, an anti-racism activist and Human Rights advocate, was the first woman from a racialized community to work for a central labour organization in a senior position when she became Director of Human Rights for the Ontario Federation of Labour in 1986. As Director of Human Rights she was responsible for the Ontario Federation of Labour’s Anti-racism and Equity programs. June was a founding member and Chair of the Ontario Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and a committed member of the Congress of Black Women of Canada.

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1986

First! Shirley Carr elected president of the Canadian Labour Congress

1986

Shirley Carr was elected as the the first woman president of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1986. Carr became active as a member of CUPE Local 133 in Niagara and in 1969, became general vice-president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). She was elected to the position of Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in 1974, moving up to Secretary-Treasurer in 1984.

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1986

Federal government passes equal pay legislation

1986

Federal government passed equal pay for work of equal value legislation for all workers under its jurisdiction.

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1987

Ontario passes “The Pay Equity Act”

1987

In 1987, the Ontario government passed The Pay Equity Act, the first legislation in Canada providing for equal pay for work of equal value. This law followed ten years of extensive organizing and advocacy by the Equal Pay Coalition of Ontario.  The Coalition was formed in 1976 by feminists active in women’s organizations and trade unions. The new Ontario law addressed systemic gender ​​discrimination in compensation by requiring employers to value and compare jobs usually…

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1987

Victory! Sexual harassment in workplace recognised as sexual discrimination

1987

The Supreme Court states that sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination and employers who tolerated it would be held responsible. One of the most important legal cases is Robichaud v Canada (Treasury Board), [1987] 2 S.C.R. 84 where the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act.  The Court also ruled that a corporation can be found liable for employees’ discriminatory conduct “in the course of their employment” as the employers are responsible for maintaining a harassment-free work environment.  The Court wrote: “only an employer can remedy undesirable effects and only an employer can provide the most important remedy—a healthy work environment.” Chief Justice Brian Dickson, in the case of Canadian Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd.[1989] declared:…

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1988

First! Indigenous woman elected to House of Commons

1988

Ethel Blondin, a member of the Dene nation, is elected in 1988 and becomes the first Native woman elected to sit in the House of Commons. Blondin serves as Secretary of State, then as Minister of State for Children and Youth, in the Liberal government of Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.

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1988

Victory! Supreme Court declares abortion law unconstitutional

1988

Victory! Supreme Court declares abortion law unconstitutional

On January 28, 1988, the Supreme Court hands down its ruling in R. v. Morgentaler. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court finds that the federal abortion law is unconstitutional, as it violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by infringing on a woman’s right to life, liberty, and security of the person. This decision follows nearly two decades of intense activism by pro-choice advocates.

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1989

The Montreal Massacre

1989

The Montreal Massacre

On December 6, 1989, a man murdered 14 women and injured 10 other women and four men. He entered a classroom in L’Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, separated the women and men and, claiming he was “fighting feminism”, he called the women “a bunch of feminists” and shot all nine women, killing six of them. He then moved through the college shooting deliberately at women. His 20-minute rampage ended in his suicide. He left a suicide note that…

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