Work Women Did to Make Constitutional Rights Work for Women

  • Nancy Ruth Senate of Canada
Keywords: women's movement, activism, equality rights



Women were mobilizing in anticipation of constitutional reform in 1980 and secured a first round of significant amendments to section 15 equality rights by January 1981. The final Constitution Act, 1982 placed a three-year moratorium on section 15. Governments needed time to adjust their legislation to the equality requirements. Activist Nancy Ruth reflects on what the women’s movement did during those three years to create a rights framework that would work for women. She sets forth six major initiatives that have not been incorporated into the historical record. She concludes by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of this period of activism for women’s equality.1



Les femmes se sont mobilisées en perspective de la réforme constitutionnelle en 1980 et ont obtenu une première série de modifications importantes aux droits à l’égalité de l’article 15 en janvier 1981. La Loi constitutionnelle définitive de 1982 a imposé un moratoire de trois ans sur l’article 15. Les gouvernements avaient besoin de temps pour adapter leur législation aux exigences de l’égalité. La militante Nancy Ruth se penche sur ce qu’a fait le mouvement féministe durant ces trois années, en vue de créer un cadre de droits qui fonctionnerait pour les femmes. Elle décrit six grandes initiatives qui n’ont pas été incorporées aux archives historiques. Elle conclut en évaluant les forces et les faiblesses de cette période de militantisme pour l’égalité des femmes.

Author Biography

Nancy Ruth, Senate of Canada
Nancy Ruth has represented Ontario in the Senate since 2005.


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37.2 (1) - Canadian Women Challenge the Constitution: The Story Behind the Story