Our goal is to celebrate women's successes, and inspire them to become Nation Builders in the legacy of the Famous Five.
Prior to 1929, Canada’s constitution said that only “qualified persons”—meaning men only—could be appointed to the Senate. It was in that year that five courageous and idealistic Canadian women stepped onto the world stage to challenge these antiquated laws and conventions. By insisting that women be officially recognized as persons in the fullest legal sense of the word the “Famous Five”, as they became known, set a stirring example of leadership that altered all Commonwealth nations’ laws and, with it, the course of history.
Famous 5 Ottawa holds a series of events honouring prominent women who lead. Annually in October, we host an event to recognize the Governor General’s Persons Case Award Recipients as Nation Builders. At our events, we honour women who have made contributions at the national and international levels. As well, we have honoured Nation Builders as part of the Enbridge Famous 5 Ottawa Speakers Series. Past honorees have included the Honourable Anne McLellan – former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, Canada’s first Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Chair of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Deputy Minister of Status of Women Gina Wilson, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps, Sen. Pamela Wallin, Hon. Flora MacDonald, former Minister Jean Augustine, Olympic Gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser, former NDP leader Audrey McLaughlin, former PEI Premier Sen. Catherine Callbeck, former MP Deborah Grey, Inuit activists Mary Simon and Sheila Watt Cloutier, Nunavut Premier Eva Aariak, former Auditor General Sheila Fraser, Former National Chief Betty Ann Lavalee, former NWAC President, Michele Audette, Wabano’s Allison Fisher, Premier Kathleen Wynne, female political party leaders Jenni Byrne, Katie Telford and Anne McGrath.
In partnership with the international law practice, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, Famous 5 Ottawa organizes the Norton Rose Fulbright Mentorship Program. This program provides an opportunity for young women to gain experience in public speaking and media. Famous 5 Ottawa believes that young women should be at the front of the room speaking and not at the back of the room organizing. Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, supports the opportunity for women to be mentored, coached and supported in public speaking and on media platforms.
Famous5 Ottawa partners with TD Bank on a monthly Lunch and Learn program at Youville Centre aimed at motivating pregnant and parenting adolescent mothers with stories of inspiration and encouragement.
Today, Famous 5 Ottawa works to ensure the legacy of the Famous Five is known and celebrated. In their spirit, we also honour today’s female trailblazers and work to inspire and empower future generations of leaders.
Famous 5 Ottawa – a volunteer group – was instrumental in persuading the government to place the Women Are Persons! Monument on Parliament Hill to commemorate the efforts of Emily Murphy, Nellie McClung, Irene Parlby, Henrietta Muir Edwards and Louise McKinney. They also worked to ensure the $50 bill recognized women as Nation Builders.
The Famous 5 Foundation was established on October 18, 1996—the anniversary of the Persons Case—and registered as a not-for-profit charitable corporation in 1997. The Foundation’s mission is to empower women and girls to courageously lead change that contributes to a society without boundaries for women, in the spirit of the Famous Five.
In 2004, the founder and original President of the Famous 5 Foundation, Frances Wright, received a Governor General Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case, on behalf of the many who built the Famous 5 Foundation. The award honours those who have made outstanding contributions to the quality of life for women in Canada
Through a sponsorship from Enbridge, Famous 5 Ottawa was founded in 2006 as a non-profit organization dedicated to inspire and educate women to become Nation Builders in the legacy of the original Famous Five.