William Maxwell Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, financier, politician, author, publisher (b at Maple, Ont 25 May 1879; d at Cherkley, Mickleham, Eng 9 June 1964). The son of a Presbyterian minister, Beaverbrook later claimed that his religion lay at the root of his worldly success.
Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian. In 2002 he was sent by the United States to Syria as an accused terrorist, based on faulty information supplied to US agents by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Arar was tortured in Syria before being released and returned to Canada. The federal government paid him $10.5 million in compensation for the wrongs done to him.
Justine Lacoste-Beaubien, C.B.E., founder and administrator of the Hôpital Sainte-Justine (born 1 October 1877 in Montréal, Québec; died 17 January 1967 in Montréal). A seasoned businesswoman, she chaired the board of directors of the Hôpital Sainte-Justine from 1907 to 1966 and made her dream come true by making the hospital a university research and study centre affiliated with the Université Laval in Montréal (now the Université de Montréal). From 1950 to 1957, she had a state-of-the-art hospital built for sick children on chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine. More than 100 years after it was established, the Centre hospitalier universitaire (university-affiliated hospital) (CHU) Sainte-Justine is the largest mother-child centre in the country and the only institution in Québec dedicated exclusively to pediatrics and obstetrics.
The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) is a feminist, activist organization that was founded in 1971 to pressure the Canadian government to implement the recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada. The NAC ceased active operations in the late 2000s.
Florence Bayard Bird (née Rhein, pseudonym Anne Francis), CC, senator, journalist, broadcaster and author (born 15 January 1908 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; died 18 July 1998 in Ottawa, Ontario). Chair of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada from 1967 to 1970, Florence Bird made her name as a broadcast journalist for CBC/Radio-Canada, reporting news and producing documentaries on women’s working conditions and on conditions for women in Canada’s prisons.
The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada, also known as the Bird Commission in honour of its chair, Florence Bird, was established on 3 February 1967. More than 900 people appeared at its public hearings over a period of six months. In addition to providing an overview of the status of women, the report tabled on 7 December 1970 included 167 recommendations for reducing gender inequality across the various spheres of Canadian society.
Henrietta Louise Edwards, née Muir, women’s rights activist, reformer, artist (born 18 December 1849 in Montréal, Canada East; died 9 November 1931 in Fort Macleod, AB). Edwards fought from a very young age for women’s rights and education, as well as women’s work and health across the country. A gifted artist, talented interpreter of the law and tireless activist and organizer, she helped found a great number of movements, societies and organizations aimed at improving the lives of women in Canada. Edwards aimed to expand women’s rights in the political and especially the legal sphere, and was one of the five appellants, “The Famous Five,” in the Persons Case.
Margret Benedictsson (née Jonsdottir), journalist, social activist, suffragist (born 16 March 1866 in Hrappsstadir, Iceland; died 13 December 1956 in Anacortes, Washington). Benedictsson brought her deeply held beliefs and interest in social change to Manitoba. Through her service to the Icelandic communities in Selkirk, Gimli, and Winnipeg, she championed women’s suffrage, education, improved working conditions, and human rights.
Louise McKinney, née Crummy, Alberta MLA 1917–21, women’s rights activist, lay preacher (born 22 September 1868 in Frankville, ON; died 10 July 1931 in Claresholm, AB). McKinney holds the distinction of being the first woman elected to a legislature in Canada and in the British Empire. A member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and a devout Methodist, she dedicated her life to good works in the service of others. She is also known as a pioneer suffragist and member of the Famous Five. Her signature appears on the legal petition to recognize women as persons under the Constitution, allowing them to serve in appointed positions, such as in the Senate (see Persons Case).
Mary Irene Parlby, née Marryat, Alberta MLA (1921–35), women’s rights advocate, activist (born 9 January 1868 in London, UK; died 12 July 1965 in Red Deer, AB). Parlby served as a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Alberta for 14 years and was the first woman in Alberta, and the second in the British Empire, to be appointed to a cabinet position. One of the Famous Five appellants in the Persons Case, Parlby was a compelling advocate for women’s rights. Her career in activism and legislation was especially dedicated to improving the lives of rural women and children. She was the first woman awarded an honorary degree from the University of Alberta.
Jane Vance Rule, CM, OBC, writer, teacher and activist (born 28 March 1931 in Plainfield, NJ; died 27 November 2007 in Galiano Island, BC). Rule was a ground-breaking novelist and essayist whose work explored the lives of lesbians, beginning at a time when homosexuality was still a crime in Canada (see LGBT Rights in Canada). Her first novel, Desert of the Heart, is perhaps her best known. It was adapted into the film Desert Hearts in 1986. Rule is the author of seven novels and several collections of essays and short stories. She was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 1998 and the Order of Canada in 2007.