Throughout our nation’s history women in Canada have played a crucial role in the story of the past and how it shapes the present. To celebrate International Women’s Day, Brightspark is paying tribute to six amazing women. From activists to scientists, and athletes to journalists, these women have shown that Canadian pride is universal. So let’s take a trip through Canada’s past and present to recognize these great women who have helped make this country a place so many people are proud to call home.
From a 16 year old water rights activist to a black transgender performer, we're highlighting 6 important women in Canada with quotes and video resources that teachers can use in their classroom to celebrate International Women's Day.
Dr. Eugenia Duodu
“At the end of the day, what you bring to the table will change the field that you’re in and no one can bring that except for you.”
Duodo is a chemist and the CEO of Visions of Science, a not-for-profit organization supporting children in low-income neighbourhoods by encouraging them to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM subjects). Throughout her career, she has faced many gender and racial stereotypes while pursuing her chosen field of science. This Globe and Mail article is a great read outlining how she overcame adversity and became successful in a male dominated industry. Today, she uses these experiences to teach and mentor the next generation. Watch her TEDx talk on “The “Unlikely” Scientist”, containing advice for finding your path and staying true to yourself.
“I’ve said it once, and I'll say it again, we can't eat money, or drink oil.”
Peltier is an Anishinaabe water-rights advocate and Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. At the age of 12, Peltier started speaking out publicly about the issues of contaminated water and by the age of 15 was invited to speak at the United Nations about her cause. She was then nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018, and 2019. You can learn more about Peltier's journey in this video.
The Honourable Chantal Petitclerc
“Excellence doesn’t happen accidently. It’s true; we can’t choose what happens to us in life. However, as an individual or a country, we can always choose the attitude we will have to face life’s challenges.”
Petitclerc is a Para-Olympian who began her journey at just 13 years old, after an accident left her without the use of her legs. Overcoming many obstacles, she became one of Canada’s top athletes, holding the record for most gold medals won by a Canadian female athlete. Today she is a Senator for the Parliament of Canada as well as a public speaker advocating for people with disabilities, showing them through her own examples that everyone and anyone can reach their full potential. Check out some of the highlights from her speeches in this short video.
“For me, art is freedom: to speak, to think and to question.”
Belmore has become one of today’s most important contemporary artists with her works pertaining to crucial issues of our time. She is a member of the Lac Seul First Nations (Anishinaabe) and her connection to the political and social aspects of Indigenous communities has been influential in her art. Belmore creates art with strong relationships between bodies, land and language, specifically linking her art to politics. Her poetic and beautiful work has been displayed all around the world, feel free to check out one of her recent works, Wave Sound Sculptures, here at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
“Now we’re going to spend the rest of the year making sure that [the promises made by politicians and police] actually happen, and that this isn’t just a quote.”
Doolittle is an investigative reporter with The Globe and Mail who has brought to light many suspicious business contracts, sexual assault cases, and political corruption. In this video Doolittle summarizes her most recent investigation, explaining the power gap between men and women and how this must change. Her “Unfounded” investigation also explored how 873 police jurisdictions handle sexual assault cases, with her results leading to an overhaul in police training and policies, as well as $100 million being dedicated to combat gender-based violence. If you would like to learn more about her investigations, you can read her articles here (requires a free account for The Globe and Mail).
“My whole approach is to get you to go up against wrong. I don’t bow down. I do not get down on my knees. The lowest I go is the top of my head.”
Shane was a pioneering black transgender performer who was a prominent figure in Toronto’s R&B scene in the 1960s. Originally from Nashville, Shane experienced difficulty in the Jim Crow era and chose to move to Toronto in 1959. She saw much success here, playing sold out shows and appearing on local music TV programmes, ultimately helping to shape Toronto’s music scene. To learn more about Shane and her musical contributions to Canada, listen to the “Shout Out to Jackie Shane” episode on the Secret Life of Canada podcast or listen to her biggest hit “Any Other Way”.
Test your Knowledge with a Kahoot!
After participating in the above activities, challenge your class to a Kahoot! game to reinforce the key facts of International Women’s Day and gender equality within Canada.
- Go to Kahoot.com
- Click "login" or "create account" on the top right
- Once logged in, go to the discover tab next to the home button
- In the search field, enter “Brightspark: Highlighting 6 Important Women in Canada”
- Click the “Brightspark: Highlighting 6 Important Women in Canada” Kahoot
- Hit “play” and select either Teach (live game where everyone plays at the same time) or Assign (students play at their own pace with a deadline attached to it)
- Send the link and pin to your students (students do not need an account to play)
If you wish to learn about more significant Canadian women check out Canada’s History’s comprehensive list or refer to our other blog posts.