Gender equality timeline


Emma Baker is the first woman to receive a Ph.D. from a Canadian university.


On January 29, women in Manitoba become the first in Canada to vote in a provincial election.


Some women were granted the right to vote in federal elections.


Agnes Macphail is the first woman elected to the House of Commons


On October 18, Canada’s highest court of appeal hands down the historic decision to include women in the legal definition of “persons”, thanks to the Famous Five’s hard work. This milestone victory is known as the Persons Case.


Decriminalization of gross indecency and buggery for consenting adults 21 years and older. Canada’s first Criminal Code (1892) included offences prohibiting gross indecency and buggery.


The Report on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women is tabled in Parliament.

It includes recommendations on updating the legislative system and addressing critical issues for women such as poverty, family law, the Indian Act, and the need for a federal representative for women.


The position of Minister responsible for the Status of Women is created.


The Office of the Coordinator, Status of Women, becomes a departmental agency of the federal government on April 1, 1976.


Roberta Jamieson becomes the first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a law degree.


The Canadian Human Rights Act is passed, forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex and ensuring equal pay for work of equal value for women.


Immigration Act is amended, removing “homosexuals” from the list of “inadmissible classes.”


October 18 becomes known as Persons Day to mark the 50th anniversary of the Persons Case. The Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case are created to recognize Canadian women for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of gender equality.


Canada ratifies the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.


The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom is signed. It includes ‘’sex’’ as one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination.


The passing of Bill C-127 makes sexual assault (and rape) within the context of marriage a crime.


Bill C-31 makes changes to the Indian Act. One of the most significant changes is the reinstatement of Indian status for women who lost it through marriage to a man without status.


National Day of Remembrance Act establishes the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (December 6).


The Government of Canada designates October as Women’s History Month to celebrate the outstanding achievements of women throughout Canada’s History.


End of Canadian Armed Forces restrictions regarding the service of “homosexuals.”


Kim Campbell becomes the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of Canada. To this day, she is the only woman to have done so.


The Federal Plan for Gender Equality is released, and the Employment Equity Act comes into force.


Canada adopts the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Government of Canada subsequently committed to embedding Gender-based Analysis Plus in decision-making.

It is the most inclusive agenda on gender equality and women’s empowerment to date and focuses on important issues like equality in political participation and leadership, access to education, reproductive rights, and healthcare, and offers assistance to women experiencing gender-based violence.


The Supreme Court rules that “equality” Charter rights extend to sexual orientation.


The Canadian Human Rights Act is amended to add “sexual orientation” as grounds for discrimination. Sexual orientation is added to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Benefits and Obligations Act extends to same-sex couples.


The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends to Parliament that a proactive pay equity system be established to ensure women and men receive equal pay for equal work without the need to file a complaint to receive it.


The Standing Committee on the Status of Women is established in the House of Commons.


Same-sex marriage becomes legal across Canada under the Civil Marriage Act. Canada becomes the fourth country to officially sanction same-sex marriage nationwide.


Dr. Nadine Caron becomes the First Indigenous General Surgeon of Canada.


The first Trans March in Canada is organized during Toronto Pride.


The Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act (Bill C-3) received royal assent. The changes came into effect in January of that year and ensured that eligible grandchildren of women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men were entitled to registration.


The UN formally adopts a resolution designating the International Day of the Girl Child (October 11) under Canada’s leadership.


The first full Minister of Status of Women position is created at the federal level.


An equal number of men and women are appointed to Cabinet for the first time.



The Prime Minister appoints a Special Advisor on LGBTQ2 issues and, shortly thereafter, creates what is now called the 2SLGBTQI+ Secretariat.

The mandate of the 2SLGBTQI+ Secretariat is to provide the federal government with pathways to address historical and ongoing injustices experienced by 2SLGBTQI+ people in Canada. Since then, the Government of Canada has taken further steps toward building a safer and more inclusive country.


Gender expression and gender identity are added as protected grounds to The Canadian Human Rights Act. This led to expanded protections for transgender and gender-diverse Canadians in Canada’s Criminal Codethrough Bill C-16, which received Royal Assent in June 2017.


Canada launches Itʼs Time: Canadaʼs Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the first-ever federal strategy on GBV.


The Government of Canada makes a formal apology for the historic purge of LGBTQ2 members from the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and civil service and to 2SLGBTQI+ communities.


The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ interim report is issued in November 2017.


The Federal Court approves the final LGBT Purge Class Action Settlement Agreement.


Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act for eligible offences involving consensual same-sex sexual activity.


Canada launches the first-ever Feminist International Assistance Policy to promote gender equality and empower women and girls.


Gender Equality Week is celebrated for the first time. It takes place the fourth week of September of every year. The Gender Equality Week Act receives Royal Assent on June 21.


The Canadian Gender Budgeting Act is enacted, enshrining the government’s commitment to decision-making that takes into consideration the impacts of policies on diverse groups of Canadians.


Women and Gender Equality Canada is legislated as a department with an expanded mandate to advance equality for sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression.


The Parliament adopts the Pay Equity Act to ensure fair compensation for men and women in the federal public service and federally governed institutions.


Bill S-3 is passed, eliminating all remaining known sex-based inequities under the Indian Act.


Repeal of anal intercourse, vagrancy, and bawdy house offences.


Targeted programs for 2SLGBTQI+ communities announced, including Community Capacity Fund and advancing 2SLGBTQI+ rights globally through the Feminist International Assistance Policy.


Karen Jensen is appointed as Canada’s first Pay Equity Commissioner is appointed.


An equal number of men and women are appointed to Senate for the first time.


Canada is the first country to provide census data on transgender and non-binary people.

For the first time, the Census of Population includes a question on gender and the precision of "at birth" on the sex question, allowing all cisgender, transgender, and non-binary individuals to report their gender.


Mary Simon becomes Canada's 30th Governor General (the first Indigenous person ever to hold the position).


RoseAnne Archibald is elected as the first woman National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations at the 42nd Annual General Assembly.


Cassidy Caron is elected as the first woman President of the Métis National Council.


During the Annual Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Meeting, the ministers responsible for the Status of Women endorsed the Joint Declaration for a Canada Free of Gender-Based Violence.


The 50-30 Challenge to promote diversity in corporate Canada is launched.


Legislation to ban conversion therapy practices in Canada comes into effect to address these harmful practices and protect the equality and dignity of 2SLGBTQI+ people.


Bill C-25 amending the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA) is passed. It requires federally incorporated organizations to publicly disclose the diversity of senior management and boards of directors.


Health Canada authorizes Canadian Blood Services’ submission to eliminate the donor deferral period for men who have sex with men and move to sexual behaviour-based screening for all donors of blood and plasma, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

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