Status of Women Canada
News Releases

December 12, 1997


Ottawa --The Honourable Hedy Fry, Secretary of State (Multiculturalism) (Status of Women), joined with Jean Augustine, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, and Isabel Metcalfe, President of the Ottawa Chapter of the Calgary-based Famous 5 Foundation, to celebrate the unanimous passage of a motion in the House of Commons that recommended the Famous 5 Foundation statue be placed on Parliament Hill.

The motion, which has been spearheaded by Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, and presented in the House by Jean Augustine, Chair of the National Liberal Women's Caucus, read, "that in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the request of the Famous 5 Foundation to honour the memory of Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards - the Famous Five - by allowing a statue commemorating them to be placed on Parliament Hill".

"I am so pleased to see these five women get the honour and recognition they deserve. Their accomplishments as individuals and as a group profoundly affected the working of Parliament and Canadian democracy," said Dr. Fry. "As a result of their efforts, women now have the right and privilege to be involved in all facets of public life, including court and Senate appointments."

"In the history of a nation, there are certain moments, certain events and certain individuals who leave a timeless and indelible mark on that country and its people. The five women whom Canadians honour today were not only symbols of our heritage, but monumental groundbreakers for all women and for all Canadians," said Heritage Minister Copps.

"These statues will be donated and an endowment fund for their maintenance will be provided. We will also provide some of the initial landscaping," said Frances Wright, President and CEO of the Calgary-based Famous 5 Foundation.

In 1927, Judge Emily Murphy started an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada to define a word, a phrase or a clause in the British North America (BNA) Act, that would recognize women as "qualified persons". Judge Murphy, along with Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung, all respected for their achievement in gaining rights for women, asked the Supreme Court if the word "persons" in Section 24 of the BNA Act included female persons.

When a negative answer came back, these five women continued their quest with a petition to Canada's highest court of appeal -- the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. On October 18, 1929, the Lord Chancellor of the Privy Council announced that women are persons "and eligible to be summoned and may become members of the Senate of Canada". The decision was a milestone in women's formal rights and responsibilities in Canada and those five women became known as Canada's Famous Five.

Every year since 1979, Status of Women Canada recognizes the contributions of the Famous Five with the Governor General's Award in Commemoration of the Persons Cases at which outstanding Canadian women are honoured.

For more information contact:

Cathy McRae
Status of Women Canada
(613) 995-7835

Artur Wilczynski
Office of Honourable Hedy Fry
(819) 997-9900

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Last updated: dec 16 1997