Awaiting the Watershed: Women in Canada’s Parliament

Article 8 / 12 , Vol 33 No 2 (Summer)

Awaiting the Watershed: Women in Canada’s Parliament

The Canadian House of Commons in 2009 included sixty-nine female Members of Parliament, (roughly 22% of the seats). Canada is ranked next to Mauritania in 48th place for the number of women in its national assembly in a Inter-Parliamentary Union study. Some countries have proven that states can raise the number of female legislators virtually overnight. This process of rapidly increasing female representation in only one election has been described as a “watershed”. This paper will discuss the possibility of implementing viable policies to create a gender watershed in Canada. It discusses the philosophical and ethical questions related to women’s representation, explores various determinants of women’s election to office as put forward in the literature, and finally argues that if certain conditions hold a gender watershed is possible in Canada.

A watershed will almost certainly come in the form of a gender quota, which still raises ethical issues in Canada. For this reason, it is necessary to explore the issue of women’s representation more broadly going back to the writings of one of the most influential thinkers about parliamentary government.