In Their Finest Hour: Deciphering the Role of the Canadian Women's Movement in the Formulation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Title: In Their Finest Hour: Deciphering the Role of the Canadian Women's Movement in the Formulation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
Authors: Gill, Amy
Date: 2010
Abstract: This thesis analyzes the role of the Canadian women's movement in the formulation of sections 15 and 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Grounded in the context of the decade leading up to the 1980-1982 mega-constitutional debates, the ideas and actions of the women's movement demonstrate both their intellectual and political agency in securing a new interpretation of equality rights within the Charter. Intellectually, women drew on the legal experiences of Canadian, American, and international interpretations of equality as well as feminist ideology to conceive of a more substantive equality. Built out of two principles, equality of opportunity and equality of results, Canadian women devised a new language to reinforce the interpretation of substantive equality and sought out the means to transform their idea into reality. The success of the women's movement in this era is typically attributed to its effective mobilization, profiting from an environment in which Canadian women were able to develop a complex network of organizations at the national, provincial, local, and grass roots level. Moreover, the structure of the women's movement provided a powerful platform for key figures within the movement to articulate women's concerns and have those opinions respectfully considered. Only in tandem do the ideals championed by the women's movement and the structure of the movement allow for its eventual success. The women's movement was riddled by strong cleavages, including ideological, regional, class, and ethnic cleavages, but held together in this era by a common commitment to substantive equality. Providing an arena for action, the critical events that mark the 1980-1982 mega-constitutional debates showcase these elements and illustrate how Canadian women transformed their ideas into action. Examining the context leading up to the debates along with the events during the fourteen-month span of negotiations, it is argued that women played both an intellectual and political role in shaping equality rights in Canada. Their contributions not only secured an effective path to substantive equality but also irrevocably altered the nature of the debate surrounding human rights and changed the way Canadians understand, interpret, and practice equality.
CollectionTh├Ęses, 1910 - 2010 // Theses, 1910 - 2010
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