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As Canada’s 6th Female Premier Gets Set To Take Office, We Celebrate 10 Great Moments For Women In C
January 28, 2013
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With Kathleen Wynne the new leader of the Ontario Liberal party and the new Premier-designate, this country now has six women serving as premiers.

The other five are Eva Aariak in Nunavut


Alison Redford in Alberta


Christy Clark in British Columbia


Pauline Marois in Quebec


Kathy Dunderdale in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Together, those six women are responsible for governing more than 87 per cent of the population in five provinces and one territory.

Five years ago, the number of women serving as premiers was zero.

As important as that is, Canada still has a long way to go - as women make up just 25 per cent of seats or fewer in most provincial legislatures and Parliament.

The minimum goal, as set out by the United Nations, is 30 per cent.

As of 2010, Canada ranked 50th in the world for women's participation in politics - trailing countries such as Pakistan, Bolivia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Rwanda at 57 per cent leads the world. Sweden is next at 47 per cent followed by South Africa at 45 per cent.

At the federal level, Canada was tied for 49th with Mauritania.

There's also the old double standards.

When Christy Clark announced her candidacy for the 2011 B.C. Liberal leadership race, a reporter asked her how she planned to balance her role as a mother with the responsibilities of premier.

We love Clark's answer...

"Stephen Harper manages to go home for dinner with his kids every night, or most nights when he's in the country, and he has breakfast with them in the morning, and he's a pretty busy guy. He does a pretty good job."

"Every family has their own circumstances and makes their own decisions. I've talked about this with my family. My son is no longer a toddler. We've had this conversation. And we can handle it."

And as Mia Rabson of the Winnipeg Free Press writes...

"That critical mass of women in politics is coming, but it's not there yet. For each step we take toward an equal showing of female and male politicians, it seems we then take a few steps back."

"But the more it happens and the less it is a novelty to have a woman in power, the easier it becomes for the next women to follow suit."

With that in mind, here are ten history making moments by women in Canadian politics.

1921 - Agnes Macphail becomes the 1st woman elected to the House of Commons. She was re-elected in every election until 1940, when she was defeated.

Macphail was the only woman in the House until 1935, when she was joined by Martha Black. Macphail died in 1954, at the age of 63 - just before she was to have been appointed to the Senate.

1957 - Ellen Fairclough became the first woman appointed to the federal cabinet - serving as Secretary of State and Postmaster General (both of which no longer exist).

She also served as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration introducing new rules that mostly eliminated racial discrimination in immigration policy. She also introduced a more liberal policy on refugees, and increased the number of immigrants allowed into Canada.

Fairclough was named acting Prime Minister for two days in 1958 while John Diefenbaker was out of the country on a state visit - the first woman to be given that duty.

1979 - the number of women in the House of Commons reaches double digits for the first time, with 10 women elected.

1980 - Jeanne Sauvé is appointed the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. Two other women have since served as Governor General: Adrienne Clarkson and Michaëlle Jean.

1988 - Kathryn Cholette of the Green Party becomes the first woman to lead a federal political party in Canada. In 2011, leader Elizabeth May became the Green Party's first elected MP

1989 - Audrey McLaughlin becomes the first woman to win the leadership of a party with seats in the House of Commons.

She won the NDP leadership race to replace the retiring Ed Broadbent and served as leader until 1995. She was succeeded by Alexa McDonough.

1991 - Rita Johnson becomes the 1st female premier in Canadian history, serving as Premier of British Columbia for seven months after she won the leadership of the Social Credit party - succeeding Bill Vander Zalm.

1993 - Kim Campbell becomes the 1st, and to date, only female Prime Minister in Canadian history. She took office after winning the Progressive Conservative Leadership race, and succeeded the retiring Brian Mulroney.

In the federal election that fall, the Conservatives were crushed by the Liberals - with Campbell losing her own seat.

It was only the third time a prime minister was unseated while his or her party lost an election.

1994 - Delia Opekokew becomes the first woman to run for the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations.

2000 - Beverley McLachlin becomes Canada's first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Deborah Grey becomes Canada's first female leader of the official Opposition in the House of Commons.

On an equally significant note, as the new leader of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne is also this country's first openly gay premier.

Wynne called it "historic" and "exciting," and she feels a "special responsibility" to young gay people.

But she also said that shouldn't overshadow her job as premier, and she doesn't plan to spend much time talking about her sexuality.

Wynne's historic victory was even reported by the Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast.

Related stories

Canada Ranks 20th In Gender Equality

Col. Tammy Harris: The First Woman To Command A Canadian Forces Base

Forbes Announces World's Top 100 Most Powerful Women


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