Two women friends are visiting Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  One, a visitor from Germany, has expressed the wish to sightsee in Canada’s capital.  After crossing the bridge over the Rideau Canal they are confronted with a battle scene.


The visitor is astonished that the scene, which memorializes Canada’s victory over the United States in the War of 1812, was erected in 2012, 200 years after the war ended.

“You mean to tell me that in 2012, Canada commissioned a monument to celebrate a military victory?  I would have thought those days are over.  The last time Germany did this was after the Franco-Prussian war.  Mind you, we never won any wars after that…  Anyway, nowadays you would want to celebrate advances in human rights, or in science or the arts, not erect something that glorifies war! “

Her friend shrugs in a somewhat apologetic gesture and says, “I agree with you, but I should tell you that the canal we just crossed, the Rideau Canal, was planned as an alternative route to the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Kingston so our military could more easily evade American troops during that war.

The war ended before construction began. At that time, it was one of the greatest civil-engineering works in North America. 

Today, it’s one of North American’s foremost pleasure routes.  Both American and Canadian yachts sail its waters, and in winter, part of it is turned into the largest natural ice-skating rink in the world.  People from all over the world come to glide on its ice.

Ironically, without that war, this canal, a source of pleasure for us in summer and winter, which has been declared a world heritage site, would never have been built.”

 
She turns to her visitor: “But now let me show you a piece that does commemorate an advance in the field of human rights in Canada.”



They walk toward a bronze statue of five women, three of whom seem to be enjoying a cup of tea, and two of them standing. One of those is triumphantly holding a tablet that reads, Women are Persons and the other is pointing to it. 

“What is this?” the visitor asks. “Has there ever been a doubt in this country that women are persons?” She shakes her head in disbelief.  

“I know the church at one point questioned whether women have souls, but that was a long time ago.  This refers to an event in the 1920s.”

“Well yes, it sounds ridiculous but until 1929 in Canada, women were not allowed a position in the Senate because according to the British North America Act, only personswere permitted to do so.”

 



“Hmm, so these five brave women in their funny hats were sort of Canadian suffragettes.  When were women allowed to vote in Canada?  In Germany they acquired voting rights in 1918, right after the collapse of the monarchy.”


“Same in Canada, by 1918, after the First World War, all Canadian women were allowed to vote, except in Quebec.  There, women got full voting rights only in 1940.”

“I love this group,” says the visitor.  “Looks like the two women just marched into the parlour where the other three were quietly having tea. One of them seems to be raising her cup as a toast to this historical event.”

 

the author sharing a cup of tea with Louise McKinney

“Yeah, isn’t it wonderful.  Okay, let’s walk over to the statue of Oscar Peterson.  This will show you that Canada also celebrates her artists such as the world- famous jazz musician, Oscar Peterson of Montreal.”

“Let’s do that!”