Since its founding in 1893, the National Council of Women of Canada, one of Canada’s oldest women’s organizations, has played a leading role in reaching many of the milestones in Canadian social history. The Council has always been concerned with the welfare of women, children, the family, and the community.
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Here are some key achievements:
In the early years of the twentieth century, NCWC resolutions were calling for such public health measures as a safe water supply, pasteurized milk, and medical inspection in schools.
The Dominion Women’s Enfranchisement Association had been one of the first national organizations to federate with Council in 1893, and in the early 1900’s, Council members began to work towards gaining the vote for women both provincially and federally. In 1917, a Council resolution demanded the federal vote for all women who had not obtained it through provincial legislation. Legislation to extend the franchise to all women was enacted later that same year, and took effect on January 1, 1919.
NCWC members have played an active role in the formation of many vital Canadian institutions, including the Victorian Order of Nurses, Children’s Aid Societies and the Consumer’s Association of Canada. Council also key to the formation of the Women’s Bureau of Labour Canadian 1954, and the Federal Bureau on Ageing in 1978.
Throughout its history, Council has supported having women appointed to senior positions within government and the judicial system. It played a vital role in supporting the five Alberta women, all of them Council members, whose appeal to the judicial Committee of the British Privy Council finally resulted in women being declared “persons” in 1929, leading to the appointment of the first woman Senator in 1930. The Council supported the call for a Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967, and the resulting formation of the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women.
NCWC was active in having provisions against discrimination included in the Human Rights Act. The inclusion in the Act of equal pay for work of equal value was the culmination of Council urging on this subject, which began with a demand for equal pay for equal work, approved by members at the 1907 Annual Meeting.
Responding to the variety of interests embraced by its affiliates, the NCWC has often been a leader in presenting a wide range of information regarding developing issues to the government. From women’s equality to children’s rights, public health reforms to inner-city playgrounds, consumer protection to citizenship work, the concerns of the NCWC have been wide-ranging, and its influence far-reaching.
This pro-active instructional and educational approach continues, in the last few years, through its annual briefs to the government. Council has asked for gender equality in the judicial system, participated in budgetary consultations with the Minister of Finance, and made submissions to the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies and the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women. Recent Council Policy includes statements on pornography prevention, workplace childcare, development assistance, and disarmament.
In 1995, NCWC took the lead in plans for the National Symposium on Women as Family Caregivers, held in Ottawa in November 1995. Recommendations from the Symposium called for government social policy to recognize the unpaid work of the woman family caregiver, and to provide the support she needs, including respite care and financial security.
Also in 1997, NCWC joined with twenty-three other national women’s organizations in the “Fair Share Campaign”, to recommend that the federal government increase the funding to the Women’s Program to a minimum of $2 for every woman and girl child in Canada.
From 1998 to 2007 NCWC has actively supported Campaign 2000, a cross-Canada public education movement to increase awareness of and support for the all-party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
1998 marked the end of the NCWC five-year Strategic Planning Initiative, reflected in an increased emphasis on membership.[/toggle
In addition, NCWC submitted a resolution on the remission of the unsustainable debt of less developed countries to the International Council of Women for approval and action.
Another highlight in 1999 for NCWC was the inauguration of le Conseil provinciale des femmes du Québec/the Provincial Council of Women of Quebec in May 1999.
Together, with 114 or more other countries, NCWC took part in the Women’s World March Against Poverty and Violence. The original idea and inspiration for this March came from the Bread and Roses Marches held earlier in Québec.
In 2005 NCWC was recognized as a Canadian ‘Institution’ by the Parks Canada historic Sites and monuments Board. A plaque was installed at the Allen Gardens in Toronto, site of NCWC’s historic founding meeting in October 1893.