2018 marks 100th anniversary of women's right to vote in Nova Scotia

Despite the continued challenges, Pamela Lovelace, chair of Equal Voice Nova Scotia, said she expects to see a rise in the number of women running for office in the next federal election in 2019.

'We deserve seats at the table, we deserve to have our voices heard,' says CBRM councillor Kendra Coombes

District 11 Cape Breton regional councillor Kendra Coombes said she's faced sexism and ageism on the job. (Norma Jean MacPhee/CBC)

Kendra Coombes, a young Cape Breton regional councillor who has faced ageism and sexism on the job, is looking forward to the day when she is no longer asked why it's important to have women's voices at political tables.

"We don't ask why it is important to have the male voice but yet we have to ask why it is important to have the female voice," Coombs said in an interview.

"It should just be accepted that women make up 50 per cent of the population and we deserve seats at the table, we deserve to have our voices heard."

The 29-year-old is one of three women on the 13-member council. Since elected in 2016, Coombes said she's seen an increase in the level of public debate about municipal issues and believes it is because of the questions that the three are asking in council.

100th anniversary of women's right to vote in N.S.

April 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of most women's right to vote in Nova Scotia. Elections Canada notes property-ownership rules in 1918 kept many people from voting, including some women. In 1920, federal legislation made the right to vote universal for citizens aged 21 and older.  

The general election of 1921 was the first open to all Canadians, except Indigenous people who wanted to keep their treaty status. Agnes Macphail won a seat at that election, becoming the first female member of Parliament. In 1960, Indigenous people got the right to vote in federal elections without losing treaty status. 

Denying women the right to vote for so long silenced their voices, Coombs said.

"If more women got involved, if more women were having their voices heard around the table and it became a norm, you wouldn't be seeing the ageism and the sexism," she said.

"You have to challenge those stereotypes. You have to break down the doors. Other women broke the doors down for us."   

Pamela Lovelace, chair of Equal Voice Nova Scotia, says it is important for more women to step up and engage in politics to shift the political paradigm in the province. (Submitted by Pamela Lovelace)

Despite continued the challenges, Pamela Lovelace, chair of Equal Voice Nova Scotia, said she expects to see a rise in the number of women running for office in the next federal election in 2019. Equal Voice is a multi-partisan organization dedicated to electing women to all levels of government.

Lovelace faced harassment in campaign

Lovelace, a former CBC journalist, said she faced many negative experiences when she unsuccessfully ran for a Halifax regional council seat in 2016, challenging then-deputy mayor Matt Whitman.

Only two of Halifax's 16 councillors are women.

During her campaign, Lovelace said she was disappointed to hear some sexist comments on the doorstep and on social media. Part of the harassment she faced stemmed from her last name.

Pamela Lovelace, who ran for a Halifax council seat in the 2016 municipal election, said she faced disparaging comments on the campaign trail. (Submitted by Pamela Lovelace)

"So I had a lot of sexual innuendos and very discouraging remarks put towards me in regards to the same [name] as a porn star Linda Lovelace, so that was quite upsetting," Lovelace recalled.

"In addition to that, I had comments made to me such as, 'what does your husband think about you running?' and 'why are you doing this, you have kids?'"

Despite those experiences, Lovelace said she will definitely run again.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this article wrongly said some property-ownership requirements remained after 1920.
    Apr 17, 2018 9:18 AM AT

About the Author

Sherri Borden Colley

Reporter

Sherri Borden Colley has been a reporter for more than 20 years. Many of the stories she writes are about social justice, race and culture, human rights and the courts.