Shifting Paradigms, Enduring Legacies: Reflections on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women at 50

The Centre for Feminist Research supported the successful application of Professor Barbara Cameron, a CFR Research Associate, for a SSHRC Connection grant for the symposium Shifting Paradigms, Enduring Legacies:  Reflections on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women at 50. The objectives of symposium, held at York from April 16 to 19, 2015, were to assess the influence of the 1970 report of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women (RCSW), evaluate changes that had occurred since, and  explore the opportunities for further advances in women’s equality. Thirty-four academic and community researchers in the field of gender and public policy made presentations to the symposium. These succeeded, as intended, in stimulating lively discussions and debates.

The Symposium opened with a keynote address by Monique Begin, who had served as the Executive Secretary of the Commission and later as a federal Minister of Health.  Her speech, “Reminiscences of an Extraordinary Time”, provided revealing insights into the personalities of the Commission, a thoughtful assessment of contributions of the RCSW, and of the current public policy challenges facing Canadian feminists. Ms Begin was introduced by York University Professor Marcia Rioux, who had worked with her as a young researcher in the Commission secretariat.

The Symposium consisted of eleven panels on topics including the Work and Influence of the Royal Commission; Equality in Employment & Education; Economic (In) Security; Gender, Racialization and Immigrant Status; Aboriginal Women, Equality Rights and Politics; the Social (Re) Organization of Care; the Changing Roles of Governments; Gendering Economic Policies; Representation and Mobilization; Framing Women’s Human Rights;  and the Rhetoric of Scholarship and Public Policy.

In addition to the panels, the Symposium featured two other keynote speakers. Professor Marjorie Cohen, Simon Fraser University,  spoke on “Economic Changes in Canada since the Royal Commission” at a symposium dinner held in the Executive Dining Room of the Schulich School of Business on Friday April 18. Bonnie Brayton, Executive Director of DAWN Canada, spoke on the Rights of Women with Disabilities at the lunch on Saturday April 18.

At the final session of the symposium, devoted to the topic of “Future Projects”,  participants agreed to continue to collaborate around a project of renewing Canada’s gender justice agenda. A committee of five people (Annis May Timpson, Meg Luxton, Amber Fletcher, Tammy Findlay and Jane Stinson) agreed to work with Principal Investigator Barbara Cameron on an application for a SSHRC Partnership Development grant. These efforts resulted in the successful award of a grant for the PDG project Engendering Public Engagement, Democratizing Public Space.

The Symposium agenda is available at: