Rideau Hall, Monday, October 20, 2014
Check Against Delivery
Take a moment to think about the people who matter to you the most. Now imagine their rights being stripped away, their lives marginalized, their opportunities seized. It is easy to say that this is unacceptable and unfathomable, but much harder to take action.
Yet that is precisely what the “Famous Five” did, 85 years ago. Those five courageous women took on a system that refused to recognize them and won. They changed the course of Canadian history forever and brought the dream of equality for all closer to reality.
However, despite all the progress we have made, we have so much further to go. That is why we honour remarkable women every year in commemoration of the Persons Case.
Each of you being honoured today has made a difference in the lives of women and girls, here at home and around the world. You have helped to make the world a fairer, more equitable place. But because you recognize that there are women in the world who are still suffering, still being discriminated against, you know that your job is not done.
This award honours your contributions and allows your stories to be told, all in the hope that the responsibility you have taken on will be shared with others and will inspire them to take action.
I would like to draw your attention to a report released by Plan International ahead of last week’s International Day of the Girl. I won’t go through the whole report—which surveyed more than 7 000 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 in 11 countries in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America—but I would like to share three statistics that highlight how far we still need to go:
- 1 out of 3 girls in the countries surveyed reported that they never spoke up or said what they think around boys.
- Only 42% of the girls said that they participated as leaders in school groups as much as boys do.
- Only 49% of the girls said that they participated in class as much as boys.
My wife, Sharon, and I raised five daughters with the belief that they could be and do anything, that they should speak their minds, that they were just as capable as any man, and that they should not listen to anyone who said otherwise.
Years later, I am beyond pleased to see all that they have accomplished in their professional and personal lives. And I know that they are delivering the same message to their daughters, our granddaughters, who I hope will grow up to be members of the next generation of strong Canadian women.
To think there are girls in the world who feel that they must be silent and meek in order to live up to a tired stereotype breaks my heart.
Although the statistics I shared a moment ago did not come from Canada, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to empower women and girls around the world, to allow them to contribute to their respective societies. Only when full equality is achieved will true democracy and freedom follow.
I am delighted to see some young women with us today being recognized for their efforts. You are now part of a long and continuing tradition of strong Canadian women who stand up for what is right and just, following in the footsteps of the “Famous Five.”
Sharon and I wish all of you continued success in your endeavours and congratulate you on receiving this honour.
Thank you for everything that you do for women and girls, in Canada and around the world.