Analysis Of Emily Murphy's Case: A Defining Moment For Canada

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The Persons Case, a Defining Moment for Canada.

Madeleine Balfour

History 111
Dr. Denis Dubord
May 26, 2017

In 2015, the Prime Minister of Canada announced a gender balanced cabinet in which half of its members were women. However, it was not until the Emily Murphy and the Famous Five won the Persons Case, a mere 88 years ago, that women were legally considered people. In the mid to late 19th century, political, and public life was largely run by men at the provincial and municipal levels. The societal and political atmosphere for women was severely limited; women were expected to be homemakers and were frowned upon for working outside of the home if they were married1. They could …show more content…

She campaigned for the protection of women and children, who, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, had meager protection under the law2. In 1916, Murphy was, arguably, the catalyst for the Persons Case with her involvement in a trial in which women were accused of prostitution. This trial was attended by Murphy and other women but they were rejected on the basis that women were not welcome at the tribunal. Murphy appealed to Charles Wilson Cross, the Attorney General of Alberta, by saying “if the evidence is not fit for mixed company, then the government must set up a court presided by women, to try other women1.” Unexpectedly, the Attorney General agreed and appointed her as the Police Magistrate of the Court of Edmonton1. Regardless of her appointment, she was met with heated resistance by her male peers. Her first case was challenged by the defence lawyer claiming she was not a person under the British North America Act of 1867 3. This was due to ambiguous and gendered language in Section 24 of the British North America Act of 1867. The BNA act of 1867, also known as the Constitution Act, were a collection of policies in the Constitution of Canada. Section 24 stated that only “qualified persons” could be appointed to the Canadian Senate5. While Murphy’s sentence as magistrate was upheld by the Supreme Court of Alberta, she became inspired to campaign …show more content…

Uglow, Frances Hinton, and Maggy Hendry. 4th ed. Macmillan Publishers Ltd, 2005 3) Valerie Knowles, First Person: A Biography of Cairine Wilson Canada'as First Woman Senator. Louiseville: Dundurn Press Ltd., 1988. 4)Robert J. Sharpe, Patricia I. McMahon Persons Case: The Origins and Legacy of the Fight for Legal Personhood. Toronto: Univ of Toronto Press, 2007, 1-206 5) Michael Dorland and Maurice René. Charland, Law, rhetoric and irony in the formation of Canadian civil culture (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002), 218. 6) Vivien Hughes. "How the Famous Five in Canada Won Personhood for Women." London Journal of Canadian Studies 17 (2002): 60-70. Accessed May 20, 2017. Canadian High Comission. 7)"The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council Decisions." Henrietta Muir Edwards and others (Appeal No. 121 of 1928) v The Attorney General of Canada (Canada) [1929] UKPC 86 (18 October 1929). Accessed May 25, 2017.

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