Government of Canada Recognizes Mary Ellen Spear Smith as Person of National Historic Significance

News Release

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveils plaque honouring Mary Ellen Spear Smith (1863-1933)


November 29, 2016                             Victoria, BC                                                         Parks Canada Agency


Today, Parks Canada and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, commemorated the national historic significance of Mary Ellen Spear Smith as national historic person.


A special ceremony was held at the Provincial Legislature in Victoria with members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.


The Government of Canada is committed to connecting Canadians to the significant people, places, and events that contributed to our country’s rich and varied history. Mary Ellen Spear Smith was one of Canada’s pioneering female politicians of the post-suffrage era and championed innovative social welfare legislation. Her life is truly an inspiration for all Canadians. 


As we near the 150th anniversary of Canada and the 100th anniversary of Canada’s national historic sites in 2017, the Government invites all Canadians to experience and learn more about our environment and our history. Canada’s national parks, national marine conservation areas, and national historic sites enable Canadians to experience their heritage in special ways and will play a big part in the celebration of Canada 150.


“The Government of Canada is proud to recognize the people, places, and events that shaped Canada and to commemorate Mary Ellen Spear Smith as a national historic person. Ms. Spear Smith is truly an inspiration for women across the country as she was the first elected female Cabinet minister in British Columbia. Her work for women’s equality is an example of her dedication to Canadians and the betterment of this country. Her legacy deserves to be honoured. These types of designations reflect the rich heritage of our country and offer Canadians the opportunity to learn more about their history.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna
Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada

Quick facts

  • Mary Ellen Spear Smith was born on October 11th, 1863 in Gunnislake, Cornwall, England. In 1883, she married a widowed coalminer named Ralph Smith. They settled in Nanaimo, British Colombia, in the late 19th century.
  • She was first elected to the province’s legislative assembly in a by-election in 1918 and became the first female cabinet minister in the British Empire after her second electoral victory in 1920.
  • Smith led a number of important social legislation initiatives in British Columbia during her three terms in office, including the establishment of a minimum wage and generous pensions for mothers.

Associated Document

Backgrounder: Mary Ellen Spear Smith (1863-1933)

Related links

Parks Canada


Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada

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Kiri Westnedge
Public Relations and Communications Officer
Coastal BC Field Unit, Parks Canada Agency


Media Relations
Parks Canada Agency


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