This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Skip to Content

Governor General's Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case - Bilingual Version

Your Excellency, Ambassadors, Parliamentarians, honoured awards recipients past and present, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Votre Excellence, je vous remercie au nom de toutes les personnes ici présentes d’avoir accepté de nous recevoir à Rideau Hall aujourd’hui.

Ce faisant, vous contribuez à réitérer l’importance de l’affaire « personne », tournant, s’il en est un, de l’histoire des femmes et des filles au Canada.

Fifty years after the success of the Persons Case in 1929, the first-ever Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case were launched.

Called the “Persons Awards,” for short, they represent long and impressive records of achievement by some of Canada’s outstanding individuals.

Every year, on or close to Persons Day, October 18, these Awards are bestowed upon a select few Canadians.

Eighty-two years have now passed since the Famous Five so bravely and successfully challenged the status quo in the status of human rights for Canadian women – specifically, the right to be recognized as “persons” and thus, to serve in the Senate of Canada.

Some of the first recipients of the Persons Awards share common themes and accomplishments with our Persons Awards recipients of today – for example, in areas of women’s health, Aboriginal women’s human rights and the status of rural women.

Chaque génération bâtit sur les réalisations de la précédente : ainsi s’accomplissent les grands changements.

Et tout le monde y gagne.  D’où l’importance de célébrer un événement marquant tel que l’affaire « personne ».

Tout en commémorant la victoire remportée en 1929 par les Célèbres cinq, il est opportun de célébrer les succès remportés plus près de nous par des Canadiennes animées du même désir de faire avancer la cause des femmes.

J’ai hâte de vous présenter ces Canadiennes extraordinaires et d’avoir comme vous le plaisir de voir notre gouverneur général leur décerner chacune un prix en commémoration de l’affaire « personne ».

But first, I want to recount the brave story of the Famous Five and the landmark Persons Case.

These were five trail-blazing Alberta women who decided to take the next step on the journey toward full equality. 

The Famous Five are:           

Henrietta Muir Edwards;

Nellie McClung;

Louise McKinney;

Emily Murphy; and

Irene Parlby.

Individually, these women are interesting and accomplished.

It’s not surprising that by working together, they achieved great success for all women in Canada.

The Famous Five felt it was wrong to use gender as a key qualification for the legal designation of “person” because it so obviously and unfairly left out women, effectively barring them from taking on important roles in Canadian society.

They felt this situation was so unfair that they bravely posed the following question to the Supreme Court of Canada:

“Does the word ‘person’ in Section 24 of the British North America Act include female persons?”

While the question may seem straightforward, it actually took five weeks of debate before the Court returned with its decision.

Et la Cour a jugé que le mot « personne » n’incluait pas les femmes.

Vous imaginez bien que ce n’est pas ce que nos Célèbres — et intrépides — cinq  voulaient entendre!

Plus déterminées que jamais, elles ont interjeté appel de la décision auprès de ce qui était à l’époque la plus haute instance judiciaire du Canada : le Conseil privé de Londres.

Le 18 octobre 1929, celui-ci rendait sa décision historique : « Aux personnes qui se demandent si le mot "personne" doit comprendre les femmes, la réponse est évidente, a-t-il déclaré. Pourquoi pas? ».

Cette question de pure forme a marqué l’histoire des femmes au Canada, et celle des Célèbres cinq, qui obtenaient ainsi gain de cause.

En 1930, quatre mois à peine après la décision de Londres, Cairine Wilson devenait la toute première femme nommée au Sénat du Canada.

Aujourd’hui, un merveilleux monument s’élève en l’honneur des Célèbres cinq sur la Colline du Parlement.

Chaque année, des milliers de personnes déambulent parmi les statues des cinq, méditant sur leur exploit remarquable.

Voilà exactement ce que nous ferons ici aujourd’hui. 

Nous réfléchirons aux réalisations extraordinaires de cinq Canadiennes exceptionnelles et leur rendrons hommage. 

Ces femmes sont :    

Madeline Boscoe

Nancy Hartling

Lucie Joyal

Sharon Donna McIvor et

Kim Pate

Cette année, nous remettrons aussi un Prix jeunesse, qui honore une Canadienne ou un Canadien de 15 à 30 ans ayant employé ses talents et son énergie à améliorer la qualité de vie des femmes et des filles au Canada.

Ce prix sera remis à Amber JoAnn Fletcher.

Now, please permit me to introduce to you this year’s “Famous Six” – the recipients of the 2011 Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

 Madeline Boscoe

Madeline Boscoe, R.N., D.U., brings some 30 years of wide-ranging expertise to the field of women’s health.

An inspired leader, she helped establish HealthSharing magazine and served on the Health Canada advisory panel on breast implants.

She was a member and ultimately co-chaired the advisory committee on assisted human reproduction, which led to the successful passage of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

Ms. Boscoe helped establish the Canadian Women’s Health Network, serving as its Executive Director for 11 years.

She has led advancements in women’s health research and services, and strengthened women’s participation in health policy decision-making.

A founder of the Institute of Gender and Health Advisory Board, she helped advance gender-based analysis in health research.

A long-time fighter for women’s reproductive rights,

Ms. Boscoe helped legalize midwifery in Manitoba and establish a birthing centre in Winnipeg.

She also coordinated the Women’s Health Coalition, which was an intervener in the Supreme Court on the “Ms G” case, and initiated a provincial awareness campaign on the links between gender, poverty and health.

In 2005, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa.

She has been inspired by the many visionary women whose lives have touched hers, including her mother Kathryn (née Davis) and mother-in-law Ruth (née Caplan) Schwartzman.

She is very grateful to her husband of 35 years, Victor, and children Kay and Cary, for their support and patience. Ms. Boscoe lives in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

For her dedication to equality and opportunity for all women, we present the 2011 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Your Excellency, Madeline Boscoe …


Nancy J. Hartling

Nancy Hartling is one of New Brunswick’s most dedicated advocates on issues affecting women.

An inspiring leader, she focuses on intimate partner violence and poverty.

As founder and Executive Director of Support to Single Parents Inc., Ms. Hartling spearheaded a community economic development project, using an anti-poverty approach to empower low-income women.

She co-chaired a number of key committees, including those responsible for New Brunswick’s involvement in the World March of Women in 2000 and in 2010.

The 2000 World March brought about the New Brunswick Minister’s Working Group on Violence against Women, which Ms. Hartling co-chaired.

From 1995 to 2001, she chaired the December 6 Committee, commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women.

She also served on the board of the Muriel McQueen 

Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research.

She received New Brunswick’s Spiritus Award (1991) and Family Award (1997), the New Brunswick Association of Nurses Certificate of Merit (1998), the Leadership Award from the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health (2002) and the YWCA Moncton’s Women of Distinction Award (2010). Ms. Hartling lives in Riverview, New Brunswick.

For her dedication to equality and opportunity for all women, we present the 2011 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Your Excellency, Nancy Hartling …

Lucie Joyal

Mme Lucie Joyal œuvre sans relâche à l’élimination de la violence faite aux femmes et aux enfants.

Dès les années 1990, elle a fait avancer la recherche, le dépistage et la prévention de la violence conjugale et familiale à travers le Québec.

En 1995, elle a introduit et coordonné un projet provincial de dépistage systématique de la violence conjugale — une première au Québec.

Elle est à l’origine du Centre d’expertise en agression sexuelle Marie-Vincent, premier du genre au pays.

Créé en 2005, ce centre est reconnu internationalement comme un modèle innovateur dans l’amélioration des services offerts aux jeunes victimes d’agression sexuelle.

Mme Joyal en est présentement la directrice générale, assurant la liaison entre la prévention, l’intervention psychosociale et la recherche.

Fort respectée pour ses multiples réalisations et connaissances en matière de violence familiale, Mme Joyal agit à titre d’experte canadienne auprès de plusieurs regroupements européens, où l’on reconnaît son leadership, sa passion et sa détermination.

Au Québec comme ailleurs, elle est décrite comme une visionnaire dans l’innovation sociale au service des jeunes victimes de violence, et ses efforts dans ce domaine continueront d’aider les enfants et les femmes pour les générations à venir. Mme Joyal vit à Boucherville, au Québec.

Pour sa détermination à défendre l'égalité entre les sexes et à améliorer les perspectives des femmes dans leur ensemble, nous lui présentons un Prix du Gouverneur général en commémoration de l'affaire « personne ». 

Votre Excellence, Lucie Joyal …

 Sharon Donna McIvor

Sharon Donna McIvor has selflessly devoted her life to justice, equality and full participation for Aboriginal women.

A member of the Lower Nicola First Nation in British Columbia, she is a lawyer and activist who has dedicated close to three decades of leadership to advancing equal rights.

Recently, she helped challenge the Indian Act’s discrimination against Aboriginal women.

Ms. McIvor was involved in founding the Court Challenges Program, fostering Aboriginal women and others in its use.

As a prison reformer, she was involved with the Correctional Service of Canada in developing the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan – Canada’s first and only correctional facility for Aboriginal women.

Ms. McIvor has designed courses in Indigenous Studies and chaired two departments at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology.

She has played invaluable leadership roles in the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the B.C. Native Women’s Association, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action, and the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund.

Ms. McIvor lives in Merritt, British Columbia. 

For her dedication to equality and opportunity for all women, we present the 2011 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Your Excellency, Sharon Donna McIvor …

Kim Pate

Kim Pate is mother to Michael and Madison, and an internationally recognized advocate for marginalized, victimized and criminalized women.

Since 1992, she has been the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, taking a solution-oriented approach to social justice for criminalized and imprisoned women, regularly consulting in prisons and advocating in court.

Ms. Pate helped bring to light the shocking strip-searches of women inmates by male staff at the federal Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario.

She also lobbied for a public inquiry into conditions at the prison, resulting in the landmark 1996 report by Justice Louise Arbour.

Ms. Pate led a national campaign to re-examine cases of battered women convicted of homicide, resulting in the ground-breaking “Self-Defence Review” in 1997.

She has written numerous scholarly articles, chapters, briefs, reports and submissions, considered essential reading in the field of women’s imprisonment. 

Ms. Pate has been honoured by many organizations, including the Canadian Bar Association, the American Corrections Association, the Correctional Service of Canada, Dalhousie Law School and the International Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.

She is known for her courage and empathy in fighting for vulnerable women. Ms. Pate lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

For her dedication to equality and opportunity for all women, we present the 2011 Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Your Excellency, Kim Pate …

And now, the Youth Award, given to a deserving young Canadian between the ages of 15 and 30, who has contributed to the goal of equality for girls and women in Canada...

Amber JoAnn Fletcher

Amber JoAnn Fletcher is a passionate advocate for equality issues and social justice.

Her academic background is in Women’s Studies, and she has won several awards for academic excellence.

She is currently completing her PhD on agricultural policy and farm women’s work, at the University of Regina.

In September 2011, Amber’s research on gender and climate change was presented at an international conference in Italy and will contribute to the United Nations Framework Convention and Earth Summit 2012.

Recognizing the vital link between research and social change, Ms. Fletcher conducted pro-bono research on the needs of low-income single mothers.

She dedicates countless volunteer hours to fund-raising and support for women’s organizations and social activism.

In 2005, Ms. Fletcher designed a curriculum to provide free English-as-a-second-language lessons to low-income community members in Tanzania, East Africa.

In 2006, she founded the first feminist activist group at the University of Regina, addressing sexism and racism.

A selfless volunteer, she serves on four boards of directors, all focused on women’s issues.

Ms. Fletcher lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.

For her dedication to equality and opportunity for all women, we present the 2011 Governor General’s Youth Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.

Your Excellency, Amber JoAnn Fletcher ...

Les récipiendaires du Prix du Gouverneur général en commémoration de l’affaire « personne » de 2011 ont poursuivi l’œuvre commencée par les Célèbres cinq : chacune a contribué au progrès de l’égalité entre les sexes.

Je félicite chaleureusement les « Célèbres six » de 2011 au nom du Canada tout entier.

It is now my honour to present to you my colleague, Canada’s Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, the Honourable Rona Ambrose.

Thank you.