BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Women’s Rights

Grade 5


Women’s Rights

Big Idea

Canada’s policies and treatment of minority peoples have negative and positive legacies.

Essential Question

What were the most significant turning points for gaining rights for women in Canada?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • human rights and responses to discrimination in Canadian society
    • examples of individuals who have fought for change and spoke out against injustice

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Construct arguments defending the significance of individuals/groups, places, events, and developments (significance)

Core Competencies

I can identify Canadian women who were trailblazers for women’s rights.

I can analyze significant turning points in women’s rights in Canada.

I can explain why it’s important for women to have equal rights.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.
  • Use a Think-Pair-Share strategy to have student discuss the following:
    • Are men and women equal in Canada today?
    • Are there any areas where girls and women are not able to participate?

Part 1: Women’s Suffrage

  • Show Heritage Minute: Nellie McClung (1:01).
  • Ask:
    • How did Nellie McClung challenge “appropriate” gender roles of her time?
    • Why did some people think that women should not be able to vote?
    • What strategies did McClung use to promote women’s right to vote?
  • Explain that in 1916 women in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta achieved the right to vote in provincial elections. The following year women in BC and Ontario got the vote. In 1940, Quebec was the last province to grant women the vote. In 1951, the Northwest Territories became the last territory to do so.
  • Using a Think-Pair-Share strategy, have students discuss possible reasons for regional differences in women achieving the right to vote.
  • Divide students into 5 groups
    • Western Canada
    • Ontario
    • Quebec
    • Atlantic Canada
    • The North
  • Have each group use Women’s Suffrage in Canada to research how and when women gained the vote in their assigned region. Provide students with the handout “Women’s Suffrage in Canada” to record their findings.
  • Afterwards have groups share their findings with the class.
  • Debrief by asking:
    • Why was progress so slow in achieving universal suffrage?
    • Why were the suffrage campaigns in Québec so different from the rest of Canada?
    • What were some of the difficulties faced by the organizations?
    • Who was excluded from the suffrage campaigns?


Part Two: The Person’s Case

  • Show the short video How 5 Women Changed Canada Forever Over a Cup of Tea (2:45).
  • Ask: What was the issue? How did five Canadian women solve this problem?
  • Explain that this group of five Alberta women were plaintiffs in a court case that argued women were “persons” under the British North America Act (now the Constitution Act, 1867) and, therefore, women could Senators. The Persons Case was a ground-breaking case for women’s rights in Canada. The case was brought before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1927. It was decided in 1929 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Canada’s highest appeals court at the time. It was a landmark case in the long struggle by women to achieve political and legal equality in Canada. 
  • Provide students with a copy of the handout “The Famous Five”. Show the video Did You Know? - The Famous Five and the Persons Case (6:00) and have students record notes.
  • Divide students into 5 groups:
    • Emily Murphy
    • Nellie McClung
    • Henrietta Muir Edwards
    • Louise McKinney
    • Irene Parlby
  • Provide students with access to The Famous Five Women. Have each group read the profile to identify their person’s contributions to changing discriminatory laws and gaining rights for women in Canada.
  • Have groups present their person’s contributions to women’s rights in Canada.
  • Share the fact that Canada ranks 62nd out of 193 countries for the representation of women in Parliament. At the rate Canada is going, it will take until 2075 for women to hold half the seats. There won’t be gender parity in our lifetimes unless we implement incentives or quotas.
  • Organize a debate on the topic: "Be it resolved that 50% of all parliamentary seats should be reserved for women."


Canada. Status of Women Canada. 2020. “Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada.” https://cfc-swc.gc.ca/commemoration/roycom-en.html



CPAC. 2014. “Did You Know? - The Famous Five and the Persons Case.” YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=if_pyx5dm9Y


ESRI Canada. [n.d.] “Canadian Heroines.” https://esrica-marketing.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapJournal/index.html?appid=57318542d6574515845415220f6e02f7


Forster, Merna. 2017. “Women of Worth.” Canada’s Historyhttps://www.canadashistory.ca/explore/women/women-of-worth


Historica Canada. [ca.2015?]. “Women’s Suffrage in Canada: Education Guide.” http://education.historicacanada.ca/files/108/Womens_Suffrage.pdf


Historica Canada. 2016. “Heritage Minutes: Emily Murphy.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njAO38Og1-k


Historica Canada. 2016. “Heritage Minutes: Nellie McClung.” You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdbG6EIHrbs


Historica Canada Education Portal. 2021. “Nellie McClung.” http://education.historicacanada.ca/en/tools/75?c=32


Public Service Alliance of Canada. 2015. “Canadian Women's History.” https://psac-ncr.com/canadian-womens-history


Strong-Boag, Veronica,  "Early Women’s Movements in Canada: 1867–1960".  In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published August 15, 2016; Last Edited August 15, 2016. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/early-womens-movements-in-canada  


Strong-Boag, Veronica, "Women's Suffrage in Canada". In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published June 20, 2016; Last Edited August 25, 2016. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/suffrage  


“Timeline: Women's Suffrage.” 2021. The Canadian Encyclopediahttps://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/timeline/womens-suffrage


Women in Canada. 2015. “Women. Are. Persons.” YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFCsMtzA5t0

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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

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