May 31, 2011, Toronto – Equal Voice (EV) and the Women’s Legal Action and Education Fund (LEAF) have joined forces to explore new avenues for increasing the number of elected women at the highest levels of government in our country.

On June 2, the two organizations are hosting a reception where the Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, Hon. Anne McLellan and Hon. Frances Lankin will speak to senior players in the women’s movement in Toronto.

On June 3, political scientists and constitutional lawyers from across the country will meet with the three politicians in a closed roundtable discussion regarding strategies to put more women on the ballot at all levels of government.

“The June events are a response to Kim Campbell’s urging that we ‘stop asking and start demanding’ women’s rights as full partners in the political process” says Rosemary Speirs, Founding Chair of Equal Voice.

Joanna Birenbaum, LEAF’s Legal Director, explains that “LEAF is committed to achieving substantive equality for women in Canada.  This includes a meaningful right to democratic and political participation and decision-making.”

On June 2, Ms. Lankin, will discuss the long struggle to get more women nominated and elected;  Ms. Campbell will explain why it is so important to elect a ‘critical mass’ of women; and Ms. McLellan will urge us to get tougher in advancing the cause.

All three women are winners of Equal Voice’s EVE award for leadership in the cause of electing more women. Their discussion will be moderated by well-known writer Michele Landsberg.

Today there are 76 women in the House of Commons, or 24.6 per cent of the 308 members. While this is an increase of 7 female MPs over those elected in 2008, only the New Democratic Party with 40 elected women, or 39 per cent of the NDP caucus, has exceeded the one-third target which experts call “critical mass”.

The Conservatives elected 28 women or 17 per cent of their majority caucus, and the Liberals 6 women, or 17.6 per cent.  Elizabeth May became the only elected MP for the Green Party, and one woman was elected for the Bloc Quebecois.

At the June 3 in-camera roundtable, “Equal Voice and LEAF are asking the experts to put their heads together to discuss how to guarantee that women achieve fairer representation in the seats of political power,” said Ms. Birenbaum.  They’ll be considering redress under certain sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or the Canadian Human Rights Act.

“In both organizations we are acutely aware of the obstacles, but we will be asking the experts to think outside the box and to take into account changing times, including the adoption by many other countries of pro-active measures to ensure better representation of women,” added Ms. Birenbaum.

Equal Voice is a national non-profit organization created to push for the election of more women to all levels of government in Canada. Its volunteers have been pressing party leaders for the last 10 years to nominate and elect more women.

LEAF has won key battles for women in its 25 years of  existence – and  is working with Equal Voice to determine how women’s constitutional rights to equality and “effective representation” are compelling instruments to speed the pace of women’s advancement in political office.

Media wishing to cover the speakers at the reception on June 2 should please contact: Joanna Birenbaum, [email protected], (416) 595-7170 ext. 223 or (647) 500-3005; or Rosemary Speirs, [email protected] (416) 577-2777.