As was the case in other countries around the world, Canada granted the vote to women gradually to different classes of women, depending upon how "deserving" they were in the eyes of the contemporary society. The first women to vote were property-owning widows and spinsters and, in some cases, married,...
As was the case in other countries around the world, Canada granted the vote to women gradually to different classes of women, depending upon how "deserving" they were in the eyes of the contemporary society. The first women to vote were property-owning widows and spinsters and, in some cases, married, property-owing women who didn't have voting husbands. Suffrage was temporarily granted to some women nation-wide during the First World War and then rescinded again at the end of the war. Then, in the early 1920s, the vote was given to women again, starting in the Prairie provinces. What all of these women—widows and spinsters, property owners, women during wartime, and women who lived in the prairies—had on common was that they were already seen to be exercising a great deal of independence and were participating in the mainstream society.
Women's suffrage was delayed in precisely the opposite cases. In the more religiously and socially conservative province of Québec, for example, women did not vote until 1940. However, the women who were last to get the vote were also Canada's most disenfranchised women: women from Canada's indigenous communities. Inuit women did not vote until 1950 and First Nations women did not vote until 1960, and even then only if they gave up their Indian status. This was part of a broader policy of assimilating indigenous people into white Canadian society, a "paper genocide" that was designed to make native tribes disappear from the map so that their lands and territories could be exploited without interference. Voting was just one of the many ways in which these assimilationist policies specifically targeted women. Under the Indian Act, for example, indigenous women and their children would lose their Indian status if they married a man who did not have status, whether he was native or not. Women's suffrage, then, was just one more way that the Canadian government has historically leveraged gender discrimination as a tool in the racist assimilation of indigenous peoples.
Because of this intersection between race, colonization, and women's suffrage, the granting of full suffrage to all women, regardless of race or property status, must be thought about in the context of the Red Power and other anti-racist movements of the 1960s and 70s, which were themselves manifestations of a global revolt against colonialism. Beginning in the 1960s, native people successfully used the legal system to end much of the formal discrimination that they suffered, while also beginning to use blockades and other direct action tactics to reclaim their lands and territories. These movements had a direct impact on the struggle for women's suffrage, with status Indians being granted the vote in the various provinces starting with Québec in 1969.
Globalization, then, created the context for indigenous movements for land, freedom, and self-determination in Canada and these movements, in turn, transformed women's suffrage to include indigenous women and combat the ways that gender discrimination and colonialism have historically reinforced one another.