The Right to Speak.

The Responsibility to Act.

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Local Advocacy Committee:

CFUW Orillia Advocacy members participate in the ONRoute Rally held July 30, 2019 to support efforts to end human trafficking.


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Women in Politics - Speed Networking Workshop


The CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee presented “Women in Politics - Speed Networking Workshop” at the Orillia Secondary School Cafetorium on the evening of Wednesday, April 24, 2019. The event was open to the public.

Why is balanced representation important?

What keeps women from becoming candidates in elections?

What are the solutions?


Joining in the discussion about achieving balanced representation in politics were

these experienced women:

  • Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North

  • Pat Hehn, City of Orillia Councillor

  • Sharon Henry, former Chief of Chippewas of Rama First Nation

  • Valerie Powell, Candidate for the Green Party

  • Liz Riley, Candidate for the Liberal Party

  • Sarah Valiquette, Severn Township Councillor

  • Elizabeth Van Houtte, Candidate for the NDP. 


Kim Fedderson, former Principal of Lakehead University Orillia moderated.





“Ladies Upstairs – My Life in Politics and After”, by Monique Bégin

“Gender and Party Politics”, by Joni Lovendeski and P. Norris

“Still Counting: Women in Politics Across Canada”, by Linda Trimble and Jane Arscott


Daughters of the Vote

Equal Voice

UN Women

The Century Foundation

Parliament of Canada Research


A Gender Gap

Women are Under-represented

Final Report on WIP Speed Networking Event, April 2019

April 2019                            Women in Politics - Speed Networking Workshop

at O.S.S. on April 24, 2019

PHOTOS thanks to J.H.




March 2019

Panel Discussion on Under Representation of Women in Politics

at O.S.S. on March 22, 2019

2019-03-22 Women In Politics Panel_2of2.
2019-03-22 Women In Politics Panel_1of2.

On March 22, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee, with the assistance of Orillia Secondary School (OSS) Principal, Peter Bowman, and Leanne Young, Canada and World Studies Chair, presented A Panel Discussion on the Under Representation of Women in Politics at OSS.  Approximately 150 students from the Civics classes at OSS and Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School took part. On the panel was Jill Dunlop, MPP for Simcoe North; Laura Domsey, former Liberal Candidate; Pat Hehn, City of Orillia Councilor; Valerie Powell, former Green Party Candidate; Sharon Stinson-Henry, former Chief of Chippewas of Rama First Nation; Sarah Valiquette, Severn Township Councilor;  Elizabeth Van Houtte, former NDP Candidate; and one student from each of the Orillia Secondary Schools: Paige, from OSS; Julia, from Patrick Fogarty; and Kaitlyn from Twin Lakes Secondary School. Leanne Young moderated with expertise and there was great discussion. The questions from the students were excellent as were the answers from the panelists. Because the Panel was held at a Secondary School during the day when classes are on, the public could not be invited due to Security issues.



March 2019

Op-Ed Article in - March 8, 2019




March 8 is International Women’s Day. It is a day to celebrate women’s achievements as well as reflect on the barriers that continue to exist.


Since the day was first observed on March 8, 1909, great strides have been made towards realizing women’s economic, political and social equality.  


Some women gained the right to vote federally in 1917, though it was not until 1960 when Indigenous women were included that all Canadian women had that right.  During the Second World War, many middle class women took on roles in manufacturing – ammunition, planes, ships, parachutes, uniforms. After the war, these same women were expected to return to the home to be house wives and mothers. Many women balked at this. They enjoyed being productive, having a role outside the home and earning money.


Slowly, women working outside the home came to be accepted by Western society. The legalization of the birth control pill and later the right of choice, further gave women control over their bodies.  


In the 1990’s, there was pay equity legislation which states that a women is to receive the same rate of pay as a man for work of equal value.  The legislation exists, but the reality does not. Women continue to earn about 75 cents to the dollar compared to a man. And violence against women continues to be a major problem. Unfortunately, our First Nations women suffer a disproportionally high rate of abuse.


While some of the old barriers no longer exist, we are not barrier free.  Women today are better educated. The enrollment of women in university exceeds men. There is pay equity legislation but affordable child care remains a challenge.  Often, managerial systems are inflexible to different modes of working.


Because few women crack that glass ceiling, there is little support and mentorship for women attempting to ascend to power.  Globe and Mail columnist Elizabeth Renzetti believes women’s ambition is further constrained by inherent biases that favour the promotion of people already in power – that is non-racialized men.


So how do we change the culture?  Many believe that it needs to be changed from the inside out. Women need to be the policy makers.  But to be policy makers, women need to be elected to office at every level. Research shows that women elected to office are better able to work across party lines than their male counterparts and are particularly effective in policy making.


So why do so few women throw their hat into the ring? Tamara Small, Professor of Political Science at University of Guelph states, “The discourse around women in politics is that women are still outsiders.  Politics is a man’s world, and all of these people are interloping. The internet more broadly is not a particularly welcoming place for women.”


It is believed that women are less likely to put themselves forward due to concern over loss of privacy and fear of not being taken seriously.  The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of the Environment, certainly experienced this when she was dubbed “Climate Barbie” by Rebel Media.


As Hilary Clinton has stated, “The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.”  Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first female policy director for the U.S. State Department, agrees. As she states, “Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women.  That will be a society that works for everyone.”


So, on this 90th anniversary of International Women’s Day, I would like to encourage all women to think about what they can do to alter this imbalance.  You may not be interested in pursuing election, but all candidates need the encouragement to put their name forward, the support to launch a campaign, and everyone exercising their right to vote!  


Equal Voice, a multi-partisan not-for-profit organization, is dedicated to getting women elected at all levels of government. Check them out ( and see what is possible for you.


CFUW Orillia Advocacy Chair



November 2018

Op-Ed Article in - Nov. 25, 2018


16 Days of Activism

Violence against women (VAW) is an ongoing human rights issue. It prevents women from enjoying all human rights and creates a significant barrier to gender equality. Contrary to popular belief, it is not limited to domestic abuse and rape, but includes a broad spectrum of acts such as verbal, psychological and physical harassment and coercion, as well as torture and murder. VAW results from the gender-biased power relations and discrimination that shapes our laws, governance structures and collective and individual attitudes. It especially impacts women who are young, Indigenous, living in poverty, racialized, disabled, or part of the LGBTQI2S community.


The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) has been actively monitoring policies and programs that address VAW. Women in Canada are far from immune from gender-based violence. Based on recent census data, which show no significant reduction, VAW continues to be a national problem.


In light of the ongoing national tragedy of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the culture of sexual harassment on Canadian campuses and in the workplace, and the reports and testimonies from women and girls who are/were submitted to torture in the domestic sphere, the Canadian Federation of University Women calls for concerted actions at all levels of government. Adequate funding, clear, measurable national targets, and a comprehensive approach that includes diverse socio-economic measures such as childcare and adequate housing, are required to address the issue.


November 25 to December 10 is known as the “16 Days of Activism”. Beginning with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and concluding with Human Rights Day, the Campaign unites the voices of millions of women and girls to raise awareness about VAW, work to eliminate all forms of VAW and demand equal protection and full access to fundamental human rights of safety and education. In Canada, we also commemorate the 14 engineering students who were gunned down in 1989 at Montréal’s l’Ecole Polytechnique on December 6.

Education is a large component of the battle to end gender-based violence.  We need to teach our children to resolve conflict without violence. We need to teach our girls to protect and empower themselves.  And we need to teach our boys that violence, and in particular gender-based violence, perpetuates the problem. The Ontario health curriculum, introduced in 2015, attempted to address these issues.  Unfortunately, the curriculum was axed when the Conservatives took power this summer. Let your MPP know that this curriculum has merit and needs to be brought back to the classroom. Learn how negative media images of women and girls foster gender-based violence and how you can counter this trend.

Purple is the colour chosen to represent VAW. Wearing a purple scarf lets others know that you believe that violence against women and girls is not acceptable and must not be tolerated. You can purchase a beautiful purple scarf from Green Haven Women’s Shelter for $20. The funds go towards this much needed resource. Green Haven also accepts donations such as toiletries, warm socks, mitts, hats, etc. and food.


As individuals, we can challenge comments/jokes that promote violence against women.  Too often, we give a nervous titter to such comments rather than calling out the speaker for promoting negative behaviour.  In our age of social media, one can also challenge online harassment.


Over the next 16 days, please join CFUW Orillia in promoting a healthier and safer environment for all.

CFUW Orillia Advocacy Chair


September 2017

Letter to the Editor


Literacy is the Best Remedy


I often hear people complain when it rains. For me, a rainy day is an opportunity to curl up with a good book. The story will transport me to a new setting with interesting characters. I will feel that I have escaped the rain for a new and exciting place. But what if I was unable to read? I think I would be lost and sad. I can only imagine the frustration I would feel completing an application form if I was unable to read. Canada celebrates National Literacy and Numeracy Week September 4 to 10. The aim is to draw attention to the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.


The Conference Board of Canada states that four out of ten Canadian adults have literacy skills too low to be fully competent in most jobs in our modern economy. Low literacy skills impede a business’ ability to compete. Literacy skills affect productivity, innovation, and bottom-line results. Employees who hold these skills are rewarded with better earnings and quality of life.


So how do we ensure all Canadians have and maintain a more than adequate level of literacy? Parents can start by reading to their children. By listening to a story, children learn how words correspond with illustrations, how to read with expression, and develop a rich vocabulary. As children age, encourage them to read to the adult. Visit the library regularly and participate in the various programs available for youth and adults. Own a library card. Money, or lack thereof, should not preclude one from reading. Encourage your children to stay in school or adults to take courses to upgrade their skills. Learning is a life-long venture.


Literacy is not just a gift or privilege. It is a fundamental life skill; an indispensable necessity to master one’s future.



Chair, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee


June 2017

Op-Ed Article in the Packet & Times


National Aboriginal Day, June 21st


Each year Canada acknowledges National Aboriginal Day, known to some as First Nations Day, to recognize and celebrate the indigenous peoples who live in Canada. Approximately 10% of the population in Simcoe County is of aboriginal decent (which is almost double the national average). In this year of Canada’ s sesquicentennial, it is especially important for all Canadians to pause and reflect on the history and contributions, both past and present of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis. It is also essential to our collective well-being and future success as a Country that the injustices, past and present, be acknowledged and that healing begin so we can all move forward together.

There is archaeological evidence First Nations peoples inhabited this region at least 7,000 years ago. One of the most striking examples is right here in Orillia at the Narrows where Lakes Simcoe and Couching meet. Here you can see the remains of the Mnjikaning Fishing Weirs, used by the Huron-Wendat for thousands of years. Today these fishing weirs are under the stewardship of the Chippewas of Rama First Nations. This site was designated a Canadian Historical site in 1982 ( It is a sacred place to many First Nations “that represents an ancient and ongoing spiritual bond between the Creator and all living things. The spirits of people, water, animals, birds and fish are seen as all coming together in respect and gratitude at Mnjikaning.”


Four hundred and one years ago, the arrival of Champlain and the Jesuits in our area, forever changed the course of history. We have grown up in ignorance of the truth of Canada’s history; our formal schooling system has let us down. We were taught very little about the history prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, and the history is told from the perspective of the colonizers, not the colonized. We were not taught about the residential school system that tore children away from families and their communities. We have not been taught about the intergenerational damage that has been done and the link to many social issues Indigenous peoples in Canada face today.


A local troubling depiction of our history is the Champlain monument built in 1925 in Couchiching Park depicting Champlain as a larger than life hero and the “Indians” who in fact welcomed him and kept him alive, kneeling at his feet. The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, Rama First Nations, Parks Canada and the City of Orillia are working to find a solution to present a balanced look at this history.


In our area we are blessed to have the opportunity to learn firsthand about the rich First Nations’ and Metis cultures that have survived, despite attempts to eradicate them. These cultures have recently begun to flourish again. We can participate in festivities this summer such as: the Rama Annual Pow-Wow, August 19-20th, 2017 (; activities organized by the Beausoleil First Nations on beautiful Christian Island, in Georgian Bay (; activities at the historic site, Ste. Marie Among the Hurons in Midland  ( , and, the Pow-Wow organized by the Georgian Bay Friendship Centre, Sept 9th and 10th held in Midland (


As a society, but also as individuals, we no longer have an excuse to remain ignorant, neither of the past nor the present. The United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada give us clear direction on the actions required. And the recently launched Commission into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls, will shed new light on the deep-rooted causes of these tragedies that continue today.

Self-education is a key to understanding the truth and to forging a common path forward. Let’s celebrate National Aboriginal Day all year long by: participating in festivities, reading the Truth and Reconciliation summary (, reading one of the many First Nations authors available at the Library or at local stores, listening to the CBC radio programme, “Unreserved”, and/or enjoying the music and art of many local and national aboriginal artists.


Advocacy committee member, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee


April 2017

Op-Ed Article in the Packet & Times



April 11, 2017 is designated Equal Pay Day in Ontario. Why? Because it takes 15 ½ months for a woman to earn the same amount as a man does in 12 months, doing the same job. It is a day to educate, monitor and act on the current gender wage gap that continues to exist.


Ontario’s Pay Equity Act came into effect January 1, 1988. While the Act states that women deserve equal pay for work of equal value, there was no allowance for increasing pay where no male comparators existed in their establishment. In 1992, the Ontario Government amended the Pay Equity Act, introducing a new proxy comparison method to enable comparisons outside the workplace. This amendment was repealed in December, 1995 by the Government of the day - a decision met with court challenges by unions – and the unions won.


Twenty years down the road and the gender wage gap sits at 26%, despite the fact that the education level of women now exceeds that of men. This gap has long-term consequences. Lower pay hurts a woman’s ability to save, meaning that women are living longer on a reduced retirement income. Continuing to pay women less than their male counterparts means society is devaluing their work. And when someone is not valued, they are likely to drop out of the workplace. This is a loss of talent and productivity.


So why does the gender wage gap still exist? Women are more likely to work part time compared to men because they take on child-care and elder-care roles. Also, women are more likely to have work interruptions in their career. Another reason is the types of jobs that people do. Day-care workers and cashiers tend to be female, while truck driving and construction are more of a male domain. Discrimination or an unconscious bias exists where men and women are doing the exact same job but paid differently. Professor Kaplan, from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, uses the example where a male partner in a law firm is paid more than a female partner.


Closing the gap should be a priority for businesses and governments across Canada. The Ontario Equal Pay Coalition estimates that closing the gender wage gap in Ontario would increase revenues from personal and sales tax by $2.6 billion and decrease government expenditures on social assistance, tax credits and child benefits by $103 million.


So what can be done to close the gap? An affordable, flexible, universal childcare plan would be a good start. Long term elder care capacity needs to be ensured, freeing women’s time to work for pay. Combining maternity leave and parental care leave would make shared parenting a reality. Ontario would need to work with the federal government to coordinate Employment Insurance benefits. Mandating that 30% of corporate board members be female with compliance penalties would enhance the gender lens. The government could support employment skills training especially in non-traditional jobs – this applies to both genders. Increasing the minimum wage benefits everyone, including government revenues. We need to enforce and expand current pay equity laws. And we need to teach our youth that child rearing responsibilities are 50/50 between parents.


Women in Ontario have the fundamental human right to be free from systemic gender pay discrimination. A “right” is just that – it is a legal entitlement that must be enforced. It is not a privilege. It is not an option. It must be secured. Support pay equity. Your daughters will thank you.


Chair, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee


November 2016

Op-Ed Article in the Packet & Times

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence 


This year marks the 25th year of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, initiated in 1991 and coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The dates, November 25 (International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) and December 10 (Human Rights Day) were chosen to emphasize the links between ending gender-based violence and human rights principles.   


On November 25, the United Nations calls for global action to increase worldwide awareness and create opportunities for discussion about challenges and solutions to end violence against women. Violence against women is a human rights violation; it is a consequence of discrimination against women in law and practice, and persisting gender inequalities. Violence against women impedes progress in poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, peace and security, to name a few. One way to show support is to wear orange, a colour that symbolizes a brighter future without violence. 


Human Rights Day is observed every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day calls on everyone to stand up for someone's rights! Many of us are fearful about the way the world is heading. Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack. We must reaffirm our common humanity. It starts with each of us. Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.

December 6 is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women. Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. They died because they were women. 


While Canada lost 14 bright women that day, the number could have been much higher.  For some of the survivors, their lives were saved by chance.  The Montreal General Hospital was holding their annual Christmas party.  As a result, doctors and nurses who were not scheduled to work were on the premises when the ambulances arrived.  The timing was also on their side as the beer from Molsons had not yet been poured.   


As well as commemorating the 14 young women whose lives ended in an act of gender-based violence that shocked the nation, December 6 represents an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also an opportunity to consider the women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. And finally, it is a day on which communities can consider concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. 


Over 50% of Canadian women will experience violence at some point in their lives, the majority before they turn 25.  In most cases, they know their abuser. Everyone can do their part to eliminate violence against women and girls: 

  • Speak out about gender based violence 

  • Do not look the other way 

  • Encourage people who commit violence to get help 

  • Do not tolerate degrading language about women 

  • Speak out against negative media images of women and girls 

  • Teach children about healthy relationships 

  • Teach boys to respect women 

  • Teach girls to protect and empower themselves 

  • Raise children who can resolve conflict without violence 

  • Teach children to use internet safely 

  • Make sure your home, workplace and community are safe for women and girls 

  • Promote women’s economic and political equality 

  • Support organizations that work to end violence against women 


Gender-based violence affects us all. It destroys families, weakens the fabric of our society, and takes a heavy toll on our communities and our economy. Canadians are reminded during the 16 Days of Activism that they can take actions, now and throughout the year, to eliminate violence against women and girls in all its forms. What will you do? 



Chair, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee


October 2016

Op-Ed Article in the Packet & Times

“Person’s Day” October 18

It is hard to imagine that prior to 1929, women in Canada were not considered persons as per the British North American Act of 1867. The act was changed through the efforts of five extraordinary women who championed women’s rights by launching a legal challenge to have women declared as “persons”.   


Emily (Ferguson) Murphy (1868-1933) was born in Cookstown, Ontario. She was an accomplished author and women’s activist. She moved to Edmonton, Alberta in 1907 where she campaigned for women’s rights to own property. In 1916 she was the first women in the British Empire to be appointed as a police magistrate. However, her rulings were challenged by lawyers who cited that she had no authority as she was not considered as a person under the BNA Act. The objections were overruled frequently and in 1917, the Alberta Supreme Court ruled that women were persons in Alberta. She led the charge in a legal case in 1927 which became known as the “Person’s Case” to change this draconian law federally.  


Louise (Crummy) McKinney (1868-1931) was a main player in women getting the provincial vote in Alberta in 1916. She was one of two women in the British Empire to first become a member of the Legislative Assembly representing the riding of Claresholm, Alberta in 1917. She worked tirelessly to provide social assistance for widows and immigrants. Working with Emily Murphy, together they established the “Dower Act” which allowed women to have property rights in marriage.  


Irene (Marryat) Parlby (1868-1931) emigrated from the United Kingdom in 1896, and settled in Lacombe, Alberta with her rancher husband. She was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1921 under the “United Farmers of Alberta” banner. She was instrumental in the enactment of 18 bills which addressed issues for women and children. In 1921 she was appointed as a cabinet minister (without portfolio). Additionally, as the president of the United Farm Women of Alberta she became a leader advocating the rights of women. 


Nellie (Mooney) McClung (1873-1951) was born in Chatsworth, Ontario. She was a school teacher and a mother of five children who also taught Sunday school. She moved to Edmonton, Alberta in 1914 and was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 1921. Nellie was instrumental in both Manitoba and Alberta for women achieving the right to vote provincially. She was also the first woman appointed to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)’S Board of Governors (1936-1942) and was a delegate to the League of Nations in 1938. 


Henrietta (Muir) Edwards (1849-1931) was a student of law. She was active as a prison reformist and organized the forerunner to the YWCA basically to help poor working women in 1875. She served for many years on the “National Council of Women” which she had established in 1890. She co-founded the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in 1897. She authored many books pertaining to the legal status of women. She wrote handbooks on women and Canadian law “Legal Status of Women in Canada” in 1917 and “Legal Status of Women in Alberta” in 1921. This documentation was responsible for the establishment of provincial laws which protected the rights of women and children. 


These five women who have become known as the “Famous Five” worked for over two years to enact the legal definition that women were indeed “persons”. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain was at the time the highest court of appeal in Canada. Lord Sankey, Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, announced the decision of the five lords: “The exclusion of women from public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours. And to those who would ask why the word “person” should include females, the obvious answer is, why should it not?” This change in law allowed women in Canada to participate in both public and political life.  


October 18th has now been designated as “Persons Day” with the Governor General’s Awards in commemoration of the “Persons Case” being awarded in October to mark this historic day.


Advocacy committee member, CFUW Orillia Advocacy Committee