The "Persons" Case
A Supreme Court of Canada ruling in April 1928, held that the term "qualified person" did not include women. Five women petitioners from Alberta asked the Government of Canada to allow an appeal of the judgement to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, which was then the highest court of appeal on questions related to Canadian law. The government agreed and the Committee heard the appeal.
On October 18, 1929, the Judicial Committee unanimously reversed the judgement of the Supreme Court of Canada. The Privy Council decision to declare women "persons" under section 24 of the Constitution Act, 1867 not only enabled women to be appointed senators but also reinforced the right of women in Canada to participate in all aspects of public life.
Women and men who owned property gained the right to vote for mayor and members of City Council in 1884, but until 1919, laws barred them from holding elected municipal office. Toronto's first woman member of City Council was suffragist Constance E. Hamilton, who was elected in 1920. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Persons Case, Toronto City Council established the Constance E. Hamilton Award in 1979.
The Inaugural Constance E. Hamilton Award Selection Committee, 1979:
Alderman Susan Fish
Alderman Janet Howard
Alderman Anne Johnston
Alderman June Rowlands
Back to Constance E. Hamilton Award page