Where the ladies at? Feminists disappear from the public record


Thérèse Casgrain just can’t catch a break.

Not only has one of the grandes dames of Canada’s suffrage movement been given the boot from the $50 bill, but now the Canadian Press is reporting that she has been “quietly removed from a national honour, to be replaced by a volunteer award bearing the prime minister’s banner.”

With no warning or announcement – Casgrain’s award was renamed for “The Prime Minister.”


Casgrain, who fought for women’s right to vote. Who fought to mobilize opposition against the moral tyranny of Maurice Duplessis’ Catholic Quebec.  Who was the first woman to lead a political party in Canada.

“Quietly removed.”  For a banner bearing our Prime Minister.

So why banish Casgrain from the award name?  Feminism?  Partisan politics?

My guess: both.

Thérèse Casgrain - For the common good

 Thérèse Casgrain – For the common good

The Thérèse Casgrain Award was the brainchild Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A Liberal. And proud papa to current Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. *Gasp*

And shockingly, this ‘Liberal’ award was created to celebrate a feminist icon and a leading member of the CCF, an early forefather (foremother?) to the NDP.

*Double gasp*

So while Trudeau showed himself to be above partisan politics in this instance, we might not be able to say the same of our current regime.

(Fun fact: The Thérèse Casgrain Award was also discontinued by former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney, then again reinstated in the 90s by Liberal Jean Chrétien. HM.)

But partisan politics may not be the only issue in play.

We all know that women, let alone feminists, haven’t fared well under the Harper Government, historical or otherwise.  In an interview with Canadian Press, New Democrat Party MP Niki Ashton said of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “He took out a feminist icon and replaced her with himself. It’s deeply symbolic. It’s emblematic of Harper’s approach to women’s equality.”

Prime Minister Harper’s spokeman Carl Vallee told Canadian Press that any claims that the government is trying to erase Casgrain from public history are “ridiculous.”  Canadian Press reported that Vallee pointed “to a revised citizenship study guide — Discover Canada — that for the first time included mention of Casgrain.”

Oh, well, a single sentence in a study guide!  Then that justifies the cut to a public award. *rolls eyes*

Women are, after all, told to “shut the fuck up,” our right to chose under a continued cloud of suspicion, facing constant resistance on an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Two years ago, Casgrain and the Famous Five – the women who brought you personhood under the 1867 Constitution – made their infamous exit from the $50 bill.  And of course, women have made only scarce appearances in the 2012 redesign of the Canadian Passport, to say nothing of how no women of colour have been represented or treated by our public institutions (remember that time an Asian-looking woman was purged from the $100 bill?).

Canadian feminist blog

Martine Warren, an advisor for the Bank of Canada takes a look at the $100 bill. The image was changed to reflect “neutral” ethnicity (if there is such a thing).
Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

Women-folk are only useful if they’re the archetypal oppressed sex-worker, the foreign child-bride, or the woman dying in childbirth (but only if it’s not because she got an illegal, unsafe abortion – even if she was raped – we don’t fund those with Canadian taxpayer dollars).

And while the right to safe sex work, early and forced child marriage, and maternal health on the domestic and international scene are urgent, critical issues, it should be noted that Canadian women-folk haven’t exactly been on the receiving end of much support from their own government. Amiright, First Nations women?  Muslimahs (and those who love them) who fought the Charter of Values in Quebec?  The ladies of New Brunswick who won’t, for much longer, have funded support for their right to chose?

So if you’re a woman that is part of a silent majority in a foreign land (read: a woman who can’t talk back directly to the Conservatives) and whose narrative can be easily instrumentalized for the purposes of politicking, then great.  The Conservative Party of Canada hearts you.

But if you’re a mouthy woman who has been a disrupter in our country’s history, then, um, no thanks.

Instead, here’s a nice big ice-breaker to distract you.


What do you think? Did Harper have the right to rename Casgrain’s award for himself? Let us know in the comments.


You May Also Be Interested In…

Sex Selective Abortions: How the Conservatives are Using “Women’s Rights” To Get What They Want

Bill C36: That time a Conservative MP used a woman’s rape story to serve his political agenda




One thought on “Where the ladies at? Feminists disappear from the public record

  1. Pingback: Canada Has a Diversity Problem in Government – And Ontario’s Elections Just Proved It (Again) | Elle Beaver

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