It references the... "two year-long battle in the landmark Persons Case" fought to secure women's full rights to participate in all aspects of life enjoyed by the men of the day. You can read the full release on net by going to.... www.newswire.ca/news-releases/statement-by-the-prime-minister-for-persons-day-866204573.html
When first created the award was called the Persons Award... but a few years later it's name morphed into what is now the...Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case.
I am at a loss why the net does not seem to reveal how many, and who, the 2019 recipients were nor yet who are the recipients for 2020. But the total since 1979's 1st recipient are probably about 230.
One of these medals is proudly displayed in my home in honour of my late mother, an 1989 recipient. A likeness of the medal is shown below.
While the PM's release notes a two year battle for status as a PERSON, the journey for equality was much longer and did not involve all of the famous five in earlier days.
But it sure involved Emily Murphy, one of the five!
That story began a decade earlier in the Alberta Courtroom of Judge Emily Murphy. And case law in that matter, had to reach back to the mid 1870's.
Murphy was appointed in June 1916, as a Police Magistrate in Alberta. The appointment was the first for a woman in all of Canada... and indeed apparently in the British Empire. Soon an appointment as a Judge in the Juvenile court in Edmonton would follow. In 1917 the judgeship was extended throughout the province.
Then along came the case of Lizzie Cyr!
Lizzie was charged with passing along a sexually transmitted disease to the alleged victim. She accused him as being the one doing the transmitting. Her downfall was perhaps in her occupation. She was labeled as a vagrant, which, in those days meant a prostitute. She was also labeled as being a HB. (A half/breed)
She was found guilty. But her lawyer argued that the judge had no standing to preside over the case. He dug up a case going back to England and the year 1876. In it's earlier deliberations that court stated that... "Women are persons of pains and penalties but are not persons in matters of rights and privileges."
Judge Murphy was no doubt stunned by the response but, as noted above, found the accused guilty and sent her off to jail. The lawyer took the matter to the highest court in the province and lost. It observed that indeed women are persons.
In April 1928 the federal courts hearing the matter overturned the Alberta decision and said once again, that women were NOT persons.
Murphy soon heard that the matter could be taken outside the country and back to England if she could find another four who agreed with her about the merits of the case. At about this time the Famous Five, or Alberta Five as also know, had assembled and decided to take their case to Britain.
In those days there was no appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court and matters had to go back to the old county at that point. Having had several promises from Prime Ministers Borden, Meighen and finally King that all would look at the issue and try to resolve it, but these came to nothing.
Rather, they supported a new argument that the British North America Act of 1867, while taking about service in the Canadian Senate, made mention of PERSONS. Some sections went on to talk about HE could do this and that... But no mention of any SHE's. So the national argument taken to Britain argued that the BNA needed to be challenged... and it was.
On June 29, 1929 the first of a four day trial took place at London. Three months later... on 18 October 1929. Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor for Great Britain announced the Privy Council's decision, shown here in part...
Politics aside, Senator Wilson did most honorable service in the senate for over 30 years.
Many in the women's movement thought that the logical choice for this first appointment ought to have gone to one of those taking the case to Britain, and favouring Judge Emily Murphy. But she was a Conservative.
On a closing note, I had planned on bringing you the last part of Alex's story, but today's took priority.
I shall return on Sunday November 8 with that story.
Hope you will join me then,