Royal Commission on the Status of Women
The Royal Commission on the Status of Women was a Canadian Royal Commission that examined the status of women and recommended steps that might be taken by the federal government to ensure equal opportunities with men and women in all aspects of Canadian society. The Commission commenced on 16 February 1967 as an initiative of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson. Public sessions were conducted the following year to accept public comment for the Commission to consider as it formulated its recommendations. Florence Bird was the Commission's chair.
In Canada, 32 women’s groups had formed. As a result, Lester B. Pearson created the Royal Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission was created to ensure equality for women, and was the first Commission to be chaired by women. The Commission wrote reports to the government about issues regarding pay, child care, birth control and education. The government responded to these issues by creating the Status of Women in 1971 to inform the public about these issues.
Women Associated with the Royal Commission
Lester B. Pearson established the Royal Commission on the Status of Women because of the discrimination towards women and different genders. Florence Bayard Bird was associated with the Canadian Senate in 1978 and was part of the Royal Commission in 1967. Since she was part of the Royal Commission’s chair, she was given thousands of letters from public hearings concerning women’s rights. The arguments in the letters from common people mostly stated that men and women were seen as equal, but they were not in many ways. The main argument Bird covered was inequality pay. Women were earning half of what men earned for the same job. Bird’s commission also fought for their right to abortion and birth control access.
Elsie MacGill, Queen of the Hurricanes, was one of Canada’s top aeronautical engineers, which is a field typically dominated by men. She was known for being an “engineer” instead of a “woman engineer” that reinforced her feminism. After being involved in the Second World War, she was involved in the Royal Commission on the Status of Women alongside Bird in 1967.Because of her workforce experience, she advocated for women in the workforce. MacGill was heavily involved with women being paid for maternity leave. As a liberal feminist, MacGill believed that women should also have full control over their bodies, and should have the right to abort, much like Bird.
Azilda Lapierre Marchand prepared a report on behalf of the Women's Association for Education and Social Action (French: L'Association féminine d'éducation et d'action sociale (AFÉAS)) evaluating the invisibility of women's work. She argued that their unpaid labor as homemakers and workers in family enterprises was undervalued and ignored by society.
The Commission discovered that:
- in 1970 only 3.9% of managers were women.
- although 8 out of 10 provinces had equal-pay laws, women were still paid less than men for doing the same work
- two thirds of people that were on welfare were women
In 1970 a report came out with 167 recommendations to ensure that men and women had equal opportunities. Some recommendations were:
- "gender" and "marital status" be prohibited as grounds for discrimination by employers
- training programs offered by the federal government be made more open to women
- the federal government name more women judges to all courts within its jurisdiction
- more qualified women from each province be appointed to the Senate as seats became vacant, until a more equitable balance between men and women were achieved
- employed women be granted eighteen weeks of unemployment benefits for maternity leave.
- Birth control
- Day care
- Educational opportunities for women
As a result, the Commission helped establish an agenda of reform for women's-rights groups in the 1970s.
The Commissioners appointed were:
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