British Columbia

Women's rights advocate and former MP Margaret Mitchell dead at 92

Margaret Mitchell,a former Vancouver member of Parliament and advocate against domestic abuse has died at age 92.

'Her whole life was dedicated to women’s rights, to equality, social justice'

Margaret Mitchell raised the issue of domestic abuse in the House of Commons. (House of Commons)

Margaret Mitchell, a former Vancouver member of Parliament and women's rights advocate has died at age 92.

Mitchell passed away March 8.

The social activist and NDP MP for Vancouver East from 1979 until 1993 gained national attention in 1982 when some MPs laughed at her assertion that one in 10 husbands regularly beat their wives.

Mitchell said she was shocked at the reaction to such a serious social problem. The next day the House apologized to Mitchell and to the women of the country. 

Mitchell's 1982 speech to Parliament on violence against women was an important one, according to Vancouver-Kensington NDP MLA Mable Elmore.

"I think it was really a turning point, a watershed moment, certainly in Canadian history in terms of the issue of understanding and taking a stand against violence against women and really leading that campaign," said Elmore.

Along with her demands for action against domestic violence, Mitchell advocated for a national childcare program, the decriminalization of abortion, and the addition of Section 28 into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

She served as the NDP critic for Immigration and Housing, Status of Women and Multiculturalism and Citizenship. 

After voting against an increase to MP pensions, Mitchell diverted her raise to help people in Vancouver's east side through the Margaret Mitchell Fund for Women.

The fund, which is still active today, was established to support projects that promote economic and social justice for women in Vancouver.

"She was just such a treasure, and such an inspiring example for so many women in our community. It's a tremendous loss, and we're really proud to host a fund that will continue to support the kind of work that she supported in her life," said Derek Gent, with the VanCity Community Foundation.

Mitchell received the Order of British Columbia in 2000, and was awarded Vancouver's Freedom of the City award in November 2016.

Elmore said it is fitting that Mitchell passed away on March 8, International Women's Day.

"Her whole life was dedicated to women's rights, to equality, social justice, and she leaves a big legacy."