On Jan. 28, the Province of Manitoba marked an important political milestone: Manitoba’s role as the first province in Canada to give women the right to vote in provincial elections 100 years ago.
Women’s suffrage in Manitoba is something we recognize and celebrate. It is an opportunity to recognize our heritage as Manitobans, and to recognize past and present Manitoba women who have followed in Nellie McClung’s footsteps through their work advocating for the freedoms of women and human rights.
We are only a few generations removed from McClung, the Winnipeg writer who led a five-member delegation to meet with Manitoba’s premier to present the case for granting women the right to vote in provincial elections. Two years later, on Jan. 28, 1916, the Manitoba legislature gave unanimous approval to a bill that made Manitoba the first province in Canada to give women the right to vote.
This enfranchisement of Manitoban women was the first of several sweeping changes that ultimately allowed women to take their rightful place in our free and democratic society.
The suffrage movement in Manitoba was led by strong, politically astute women. We admire their tenacity. These women sacrificed and worked tirelessly in order to gain for themselves and for all future generations of women a strong voice in the public sphere. Women had to work together in order to move things forward, demonstrating the power of collective will and the commitment required to effect change.
Human rights continue to advance, though the progress of human rights in our province and country has not always been easy. The success of the suffrage movement in Manitoba and eventually across Canada is certainly a testament to progress that must continue. We must use this commemorative occasion as a springboard to further the dialogue about our rights and freedoms as citizens of this great country.
We acknowledge the people in this province working hard to influence change, which is not for the faint of heart. Change is difficult, but we should take this opportunity to talk about our rights and freedoms amongst our families and our communities.
As we look to what Nellie McClung and our history have taught us, this conversation with one another could not be more important. The prosperity and freedom of our country, our province and our communities depends on it.