Canadian Politics

A09(d) - Gender and Rights in Canada over Time

Date: Jun 13 | Time: 08:30am to 10:00am | Location:

Unraveling Social Movement Clout: Anti-Abortion Impact in Canada’s Provinces since the 1980s: Sylvia Bashevkin (University of Toronto)
Abstract: Among the first granular comparisons of anti-feminist impact in units of a federal system, this paper examines how interests opposed to reproductive choice shaped policy in four Canadian provinces where violent incidents followed a landmark high court decision. It builds directly on two conceptual streams in social movement research, resource mobilization and political process, by probing the extent to which campaigns to limit abortion access depended on human agency (notably the entrepreneurial leadership of specific individuals) versus structural factors (namely the presence of a favourable climate of opinion). Consistent with findings from outside Canada, the study finds anti-choice policies were most pronounced in provinces with relatively strong traditionalist values such that those jurisdictions provided more welcoming environments for anti-choice efforts than areas with high levels of secularism. Individual actors, however, appeared crucial to provincial decision-making in that nimble, creative and institutionally well-connected activists compounded whatever advantage a particular climate of opinion offered their movement. The study considers implications of these results and proposes directions for further research.

Paths to Suffrage: Female Franchise Extension in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1912-17: Gerard Boychuk (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: The paper reconsiders the conventional wisdom that the paths to female franchise extension in Alberta and Saskatchewan closely paralleled each other (Cleverdon, 1950) and the related claim that the extension of the franchise to females in Alberta (and Manitoba) largely predetermined its advent in Saskatchewan. Rather, using new archival evidence, the paper argues that the trajectory of suffrage extension in Alberta, the first province in which the governing party explicitly committed to suffrage, was largely the result of demands by the United Farmers of Alberta in order to maximize the political weight of agrarian interests in Alberta politics. This path to suffrage was significantly distinct from that of Saskatchewan where the governing Liberals themselves, in response to internal party tensions relating to the issue of prohibition, generated the final push for suffrage.

Whose Rights? Two Decades of Parental Rights Talk in the Media: Nancy Hills (University of Waterloo), Emmett Macfarlane (University of Waterloo), Eleanor McGrath (University of Waterloo), Alana Cattapan (University of Waterloo)
Abstract: The phrase “parental rights” is not new in Canada and its popularity seems to emerge in waves. The term has recently seen prominence in the media as school boards and legislatures adapt to or contest updated human rights codes calling for respect for gender identity (e.g., using preferred pronouns, gender-inclusive washrooms). The re-emergence of parental rights rhetoric raises questions about how children’s rights are factored into relevant decision making. While children’s rights are covered by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, there is no comparable statute for parents’ rights. This study investigates the context of ‘rights talk’ as it pertains to ‘parents’ rights’ and ‘children’s rights.’ It uses Google Trends data to identify seven months over the past 20 years where searches for “parental rights” have reached at least 50% of peak searching. Then, drawing on news articles from national outlets mentioning “parental rights” from those months, we will code them using an inductive approach. This study catalogues the context in which parents’ rights are used over the past two decades and whether the discussion includes children’s rights as well. It contributes to ongoing rights talk scholarship and illuminates how the concept of ‘rights’ is employed under particular circumstances to advance certain agendas or to push back against waves of change.