A Letter from Emily Murphy
11011 - 88 avenue
Edmonton, August 5, 1927
My Dear Mrs. McClung:
Enclosed you will find a copy of section 60 of the Supreme Court Act
of Canada, R.C.S. 1906, Cap 139, with also a letter to the Governor
General in Council, which letter I am asking you to be good enough to
sign and return to me by registered mail as soon as possible.
You will recall that the National Council Of Women, The Women's
Institutes, the Women's Church [sic] Temperance Union, University
clubs and other of our organizations, in convention, submitted
resolutions to the Honorable, Prince Minister at Ottawa requesting of
him that women be admitted to the Senate of Canada, thus permitting us
to secure our full enfranchisement.
As a result, with the approval of the Federal Cabinet, on June 25th,
1923, in the printed "Orders of the Day" a motion was submitted by the
Hon. Senator McCoig of Chatham, Ont., asking the members of the Upper
Chamber that an address might be graciously pleased to give his
consent to the submission of a measure to the Parliament of the United
Kingdom to amend the British North America act, 1867, so that a
"female person shall be deemed qualified to be summoned to the Senate
if she reached the full age of thirty years, and is either a Natural
born subject of the king, or a subject of the King naturalized under
the provisions of any Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, or of
any British Dominion or possession or of the Parliament of Canada."
When this motion was read in the Canadian Senate the Honorable Senator
McCoig failed to speak to his motion; neither did he appear to speak
upon the same at any subsequent day when it was called so that the
motion was never discussed. Since then, this motion has not been
placed before the House.
As four years have since elapsed, and as it is now held by a large and
important body of opinion that such proposed amendment was not, and is
not necessary, it has therefore become highly desirable that this
matter be determined without further delay in order that the women of
this Dominion—compromising approximately one-half of the
electorate—may enjoy their full political rights on the same terms as
these are, or maybe, enjoyed by man.
It may here be pointed out that while in 1923, women generally were
gratified in having Senator McCoig's motions placed before the Senate
of Canada, with a possible prospect of its being later submitted to
the House of Commons for added appeal to his Majesty, we have now come
to realize that the matter is one which cannot with any degree of
fairness be submitted for decision to a body of male persons, many of
whom have expressed themselves towards it in a manner that is
Undoubtedly, our proper procedure under these circumstances is to take
advantage of a friendly recourse to the Supreme Court of Canada as
provided for in Section 60 of the Supreme Court Act.
You will see by the copy of the Supreme Court Act which I enclose that
"interested persons" may refer matters of law or fact touching the
interpretation of the British North America Acts, 1867 to 1886, or the
constitutionality or interpretation of any Dominion or Provincial
legislation, to the Governor-General in Council requesting that the
matter at issue be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for its
hearing and consideration.
Clause 6 of the same Act further provides for an appeal to His Majesty
in Council from the advice or judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada
should such an appeal be deemed desirable.
Clause 4 and 5 provide for the expenses and witnesses in such cases as
pertain to constitutional matters.
You will recall that a constitutional interpretation was recently
asked for by the Governor-General in Council concerning the Separate
Schools question in Alberta.
This interpretation was without cost to this Province.
As the matter referred to in our letter to the Governor-General is
purely a technical one, I have not thought it necessary to submit the
matter to Canadian women generally, they having already endorsed the
principle, but only to the few "interested persons" as specifically
required by the Act, these being all from the Province of Alberta and
women reasonably capable of giving an account of the principles that
actuate them should they be required to do so.
The following are the names in alphabetical order, your own among
Nellie L. McClung
Louise C. McKinney
Emily F. Murphy
I do not feel it even remotely necessary to urge upon you to the
extreme desirability [sic] of your lending your much-valued influence
to this matter, which is so closely allied with the political, social
and philanthropic interest of all Canadian Women.
Yours very sincerely,
Emily F. Murphy