Mr. Speaker, October is Women's History Month in Canada.
This year we have chosen the theme, “Because of Her”. This theme reminds us all of the amazing women who have made a difference in our lives and who have shaped our families, our communities, and country since its founding nearly 150 years ago, making significant and positive contributions all along the way.
This month we also mark Persons Day, the pivotal moment on October 18, 1929, when women were declared to be persons under our Constitution, thanks to the remarkable courage of the Famous Five, a small group of Alberta women. Not only did their legal victory give women the same right as men to be called to the Senate, it paved the way for women's increased participation in public and political life. It proved to be a turning point in the pursuit of equal rights that pushed open doors of opportunity for generations of women and girls who would follow in their footsteps.
Like the trail-blazing Famous Five throughout history, much of our progress as a nation can be traced to the determined efforts by women who overcame social barriers, sexism, and deep-seated resistance to change. However, our society's work toward reaching gender equality is far from over. We cannot rest until every woman has an equal opportunity to succeed and reach her full potential.
A record 88 women sit in this chamber, elected in the last federal election. Change has happened too slowly, and we have much more work to do to achieve parity. However, ignoring the progress we have made would be a disservice to all of the women of tremendous courage who came before us in this place.
Nearly a century ago, Agnes Macphail overcame very long odds to become the first woman elected to the House of Commons in 1921, 54 years after Confederation. In 1957, Ellen Fairclough became the first woman to be appointed to cabinet by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, helping to redefine yet another institution of democracy.
Since then, women have served as prime minister, deputy prime minister, in most major cabinet portfolios, as Speaker and, today, as government House leader and the leader of the official opposition, all positions of great responsibility in our democracy.
This year, on October 11, Canadians will join the rest of the world on International Day of the Girl to celebrate girls and to highlight actions that we can take to make their futures as bright. They are our sisters, our daughters, and our friends. As leaders in our families and communities, they, too, inspire us.
A great example of that inspiration came about most recently at the Rio Olympics this summer. Young Canadian women showed us what girl power was all about. On and off the podium, they achieved great things and inspired girls across the country to dream big.
International Day of the Girl also highlights the fact that young people are not only our future, they are our leaders right now. They contribute every day to our country, their communities, and their families. To celebrate, we invite women and girls to share what they are doing to make gender equality a reality by posting a status update, picture, or video to social media, using #BecauseofHer.
Finally, I invite all Canadians to visit women.gc.ca and discover the wonderful stories of many women who have helped make Canada one of the best countries in the world. We urge everyone to join the Government of Canada's “Because of Her” campaign to share their stories or to honour a woman who inspired them.
During Women's History Month, let us renew our commitment to making a difference in the lives of women and girls so our country continues its incredible journey towards equality. By working together, we will build the healthy, inclusive society that we want to leave as a legacy to our children and grandchildren. Happy Women's History Month, 2016.