Although academic dispute persists, many historians agree that International Women's Day was first observed in 1911 as a day of protest over women's working conditions. In 1977, the United Nations invited all member states to designate a day as International Women's Day. In Canada, as in most countries, it is now celebrated on March 8 and March 8 to 14 is designated International Women's Week.
Status of Women Canada is the federal government bureau responsible for disseminating information, encouraging activities, posting a schedule of events, and producing publications for International Women's Day in Canada.
This year's theme is "Canadian Women: Raising Our Diverse Voices for Positive Change!" SWC states that "this theme was chosen to emphasize opportunities where women have raised their voices, have been heard and have made a visible impact. It acknowledges the influence of Canadian women to effect positive change for women in various aspects of life on the local, regional, national and/or international scenes -- be it through paid or unpaid work."
Last October, several thousand Canadian participants of the World March of Women stormed Parliament Hill in Ottawa. As one of 25 marches world wide, the success of this event has been acknowledged both nationally and internationally. Following this event -- and in part due to the surprising success of this event -- Justice Minister Anne McLellan invited several women's organizations, unions and federal employers to a meeting at which she announced the appointment of a joint Justice/HRDC independent task force to review the pay equity provision of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
In December, Beth Bilson, chair of the committee and professor of law at the University of Saskatchewan, met with several groups to obtain input on the terms of reference of the task force. The task force is yet to commence its full mandate, but is expected to be underway by April of this year.
The pay equity provision in the Canadian Human Rights Act was introduced with the enactment of the legislation in 1978 and has not been revised since. This provision acknowledged Canada's commitment as a member state to the UN convention on the elimination of discrimination against women.
However, the federal provision has long been criticized for failing to meet its objective of elimination of systemic sex discrimination in wages. Any federal revisions will be closely monitored by provincial governments and lobbyists seeking more effective legislation.
The World March of Women has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Further information on International Women's Day is available at www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/iwd.