Monday was voting day in Canada, our 43rd general election since Confederation in 1867. I voted on a miserable, stormy day and gave thanks for the privilege. As Sir Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the rest.
2019 is also the 90th anniversary of the “persons case” in which women were declared by the Privy Council of Great Britain to be legal persons in Canada, and therefore entitled to election to the parliament.
In the 21st century it is hard to imagine that women could be declared legally non-persons, but such were the prejudices and self-interest of men. In fact, throughout history, power has had to be wrested from one class to the next. The barons of England gained power from the king with Magna Carta, but they wouldn’t share with the commoners until forced. Those with land wouldn’t share power with renters, until forced. Whites wouldn’t share with Indigenous peoples and men wouldn’t admit women to the halls of power, until ordered to do so.
Canada derives its parliamentary system from Britain, so the history of the UK shaped our own.
Even in the US, founded on the principles of freedom and “no taxation without representation,” the founding fathers conceived the Electoral College as a way to keep the “riff raff” from having too much power.
It seems everyone who champions the cause of democracy, changes sides when they have something to lose.
But the human spirit is stronger than politics. Men and women insist on being part of the process, not mere subjects commanded by the whim of a monarch. Every time I mark the X on my ballot, it tip my hat to those who fought for that right.
I especially raise a teacup to the women who suffered ridicule, slander, incarceration and the torture of force feeding, that I might have a say in my country’s government. Thank you famous five, and all the others who worked to secure my rights.