‘A Bold Vision’ conference in fall to provide alternative to Charlottetown 1864 meeting
International Women's Day logo
P.E.I. women’s groups have given formal notice that a political get-together like the 1864 Charlottetown Conference will never happen again — unless women have full and equal representation and input. International Women’s Day was officially recognized on Saturday and it served as a reminder that more changes are coming to the P.E.I. political landscape.
This historic year marks the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference which helped create the political foundation for our country. Women across the country, and especially on P.E.I., still mourn the fact there were no women around the table when 23 men met here. Had women been there, the shape, history and vitality of Canada might have been far different. Appearances are often deceiving, but the photos taken of the 23 male delegates suggest a bunch of stuffed shirts from a good old boys club who could debate the strong points of hard liquor as well as the need to unite the provinces into one country.
A highlight for this year from a woman’s perspective is a national three-day conference in September at Brudenell, bringing together Canada’s most influential and aspiring women leaders. This alternate conference, entitled ‘A Bold Vision,’ is designed to help make up for the omissions of 1864 and is being organized by P.E.I. women’s groups to mark this important milestone. This conference will provide an opportunity for women leaders from across the country to come together and learn about women’s accomplishments. There will be a daylong session where 23 women discuss their vision for our country for the next 150 years — a Charlottetown conference for the 21st century as women bring different and valuable perspectives to the table.
Women were absent from that 1864 conference but have made great strides since then in Island political life. Unfortunately, they are still widely under-represented in the legislature where they hold just six of 27 seats. But those seats are important as women hold both the Speaker (Carolyn Bertram) and deputy Speaker (Paula Biggar) positions. Two others are in cabinet (Janice Sherry and Valerie Docherty) and Olive Crane had led the Progressive Conservative Party until last fall. Kathleen Casey recently sat in the Speaker’s chair. Gail Shea is the only woman among our four MPs but she has held senior cabinet positions in Ottawa. Of our four senators, two are women.
The four largest Island municipalities and more than 70 smaller communities go to the polls in early November. A federal election is set for the fall of 2015 and a provincial election is set for late spring of 2016. There are ample opportunities for women to come forward and seek elected office. Women comprise more than half of P.E.I.’s population. They can make a difference to bring more attention to women’s perspectives in public policy development. We know there is much to be done on P.E.I. Diane Kays, chairwoman of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women, thinks women can “do best on an individual basis as that is our strength, while some of us excel as a member of a group or as a politician. We can make a difference.”
It’s interesting to note that if Sochi were an all-female Olympics, Canada would have placed first in the medal count with six gold, six silver and one bronze. At an all-male Olympics, Canada would have finished fourth. All three of Canada’s Olympic flag-bearers — Hayley Wickenheiser, Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse — were women. An important milestone occurred at Sochi — the first Olympic Games, summer or winter, where there were an equal number of sports open to both men and women.