The 50th anniversary of the Status of Women report in Canada was quietly observed in March.
After COVID-19 threw the world in a tailspin that month and quashed any sort of in-person gatherings, this milestone for women in Canada almost slipped by unnoticed.
In Trail, anyway.
However, an original member of the Status of Women Trail group contacted the Times to remind the newspaper of this critical movement that, in the city, was started in 1972 and fully revved up the following year.
“We did have a very vibrant group in the community though not many of us are left now,” retired teacher Virginia Clover explained over the phone. (The Times office was closed to the public)
“Getting a daycare was the first priority of our Status of Women group, so the biggest concrete change for our group was the opening of the Trail daycare centre,” she explained. “We also did a lot of public events, educational outreach and more, as we were able to take advantage of government grants offered in response to the national Status of Women report.”
As far as the first daycare, a staff of three was hired and, for the first time in the city, low-cost care was provided to mothers in-need.
“My daughter at the age of three was in the first group of kids,” Clover explained. “It was a learning edge in those days in Trail for a middle class mum to work full-time, or to resort to daycare facilities which were meant more for single parent working class and working mums,” she said. “Now folks sign up for daycare at the birth of a child.”
Such care is costly today, Clover pointed out, saying that advocates are still fighting for low-cost daycare for needy families, as well as for properly paid and well-trained childcare workers.
As a whole, Clover says women’s status has vastly improved over 50 years.
And while significant advances have been made, there’s still further to go, as the pandemic has so recently shown.
“The most disadvantaged women remain those in the working class, especially single parent women,” Clover said. “Covid has shone a brilliant spotlight on the economic plight of our so valuable lowly paid female workers, as well as the continued need for daycare, a guaranteed living wage, and subsidized housing.”
How the women’s movement began
The 1960s was a period of dramatic change and upheaval in Canada, as it was in most western nations. As the civil rights and peace movements gained momentum, so too did the second wave of the women’s movement, bringing with it pressure to advance equality for women. The post-war boom had seen a growing number of women choosing higher education and paid employment over traditional roles, while others were demanding recognition for their work in the home and greater sharing of responsibilities between women and men.
The groundbreaking Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, tabled in Parliament on December 7, 1970, included recommendations on updating the legislative system and addressing such critical issues for women as poverty, family law, the Indian Act and the need for a federal representative for women.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which outlaws discrimination based on sex and a number of other grounds, was enacted as part of the Constitution Act in 1982.
Today Status of Women Canada continues to promote gender equality and works with its many partners to advance women’s and girls’ full participation in all aspects of Canadian life.