NDPers have always welcomed women into the Party. Agnes Macphail, who was born in Grey County and represented Grey-Bruce in Ottawa, was one of the founding members of the CCF, the forerunner of the New Democratic Party. Our 2016 Executive actually has more women then men.
We were therefore heartened when we learned the Bank of Canada planned to put a Canadian woman on the $100 bill. (But we ask why only one woman … there are so many.)
Most of the public’s votes have landed on Nellie McClung. She was born in Grey County and went on to serve as an elected MLA in the Alberta provincial government. She was one of the ‘Famous Five’ that persuaded the Privy Council in Britain (because the Canadian government wasn’t listening) that women were (ahem) persons. She campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and equality.
All worthy accomplishments except …
She was also one of the prime supporters of the Alberta Sexual Sterilization Act of 1928, a nasty bit of legislation that stayed on Alberta’s books until 1972. Under that Act, some 3000 women were sterilized including Aboriginal women who made up 25% of sterilizations but only a little more than 2% of the population. Many were ruled ‘feeble minded’ to prevent their appeal.
Yes, eugenics was ‘in the air’ back then. And yes even Tommy Douglas flirted with the idea at university. But Alberta and BC were the only provinces to pass legislation that made it a state practice.
It’s 2016, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report is barely 6 months old. We haven’t worked out how we will reconcile what the Commission told us about our history, although many groups are struggling with that question – including a few in this area. Recognizing someone who contributed to that dark history will not help heal the wounds.
The BGOS NDP Executive will be urging the Party and the Bank of Canada to choose another woman from the list. By the way, that list does not include Agnes Macphail.