March 8 is an opportunity to highlight the evolution of women’s rights throughout history. We talk a lot about the right to vote, which was granted to Quebec women in 1940. But our laws have also evolved in other areas of society. Do you know which ones?
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Although it was one of the first steps towards equality for Canadian women, it was achieved gradually. First in Ontario in 1884, and then in Manitoba in 1900, the Married Women’s Property Act gave married women in those provinces the same legal rights as men.
Other provinces and territories followed suit timidly. It was not until 1964 – more than 100 years after Ontario – that Quebec amended its Civil Code by signing the Act respecting the legal capacity of married women. The purpose was to correct injustices and grant women the right to sign contracts, own property, or execute a will without obtaining her husband’s consent.
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The purpose of the Act is to correct wage gaps caused by gender discrimination. Among other things, it requires employers with 10 or more employees to ensure pay equity to women and men for comparable work. The Act came into force in 1997 in Quebec. The wage gap between women and men has since decreased by almost 8%.
- Did you know? One of the first major steps towards equality between women and men in the workforce in Canada occurred in 1951. Ontario passed two laws: the Fair Employment Practices Act and the Female Employees Fair Remuneration Act.
Women had access to higher studies in law as early as 1911, notably at McGill University. But it wasn’t until 30 years later, in 1941, that they were legally admitted to the Bar. A person must be admitted to the Bar to practice law. Fifteen years later, in 1956, women gained the right to enter the notarial profession.
- Fast facts. In 2019, women represented 2/3 of the notarial profession. And, since 2014, female lawyers also make up the majority of the profession, making the Quebec Bar the most female-dominated Bar in North America.
It was only in June 1971 that women were allowed to serve on juries in Quebec. A few weeks earlier, 7 activists from the Front de libération des Femmes du Québec staged a protest against the ban, which still applied to women and tenants in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Want to know more about the evolution of women’s rights? Here are 10 important dates in our history.