The Persons Case then and now

  • November 25, 2019
  • Jennifer Taylor

NOTE: This article originally appeared on the CBA National Magazine website on October 18, 2019

“The word ‘person’…may include members of both sexes, and to those who ask why the word should include females, the obvious answer is why should it not.” ~ Lord Sankey

With those words 90 years ago, Lord Sankey delivered the judgment of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in Edwards v Canada — more commonly called the “Persons Case” —which held that the term “qualified persons” in section 24 of the British North America Act included women. That meant women were eligible to become members of the Senate.

The Supreme Court of Canada had reached the opposite conclusion in Edwards, relying in part on the “common law disability of women to hold public office.” (It seems Lord Sankey’s “obvious answer” was not as obvious as it should have been.)

Milestone anniversaries are an opportunity to celebrate, and also to reflect. On this 90th anniversary, it is worth examining the Persons Case through the lenses of the past, the present, and the future.

Read the rest of this article at the CBA National Magazine website.

Jennifer Taylor is a lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is an executive member of the national CBA Women Lawyers Forum, and Chair of the CBA-Nova Scotia Young Lawyers Section. She can be found on Twitter @jennlmtaylor. The views expressed here are her own.