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WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

Honourable Senators,

I rise to pay tribute to Women’s History Month. Outside of my East Block office windows are the bronzed statues immortalizing the Famous 5, the trailblazers who in 1929 pushed Canada into the 20th Century by forcing the Supreme Court to recognize women as persons.  This year we celebrate the contributions of women in the Canadian forces. Their work ethic and contributions first as field nurses and then as soldiers, aviators and marines are a testament to the significance of women in the Canadian military. These courageous Canadians fight alongside their male counterparts, wade though treacherous grounds and place their lives in danger. To you, women in the forces both past and present, I salute and thank you for your service.

Both on and off of the battle fields women have been integral in numerous facets of our society. From Mary Adams, a teacher and inspirer who opened the doors to sciences and math for women, to Victoria Cheung, the first Chinese-Canadian doctor, to Robertine Barry the first Québécois journalist who used the strength of her pen to spread the ideas of equality, these women and countless others - their insights, their perseverance and their courage have helped to shape our Canada today.

The marks left by these women have been washed away by a history which dismissed their achievements. Their narratives have been excluded from our textbooks but kept alive in the oral histories passed on through generations. Author and historian Merna Forster grew up in Turner Valley, the same hometown as Ms. Laureen Harper. She heard these stories and was moved to capture them in text. In two volumes she documents 200 remarkable women in our history who have forever changed our nation, transforming people’s understanding of women’s contributions in leadership, sciences, arts and more. Through writing, Merna hoped to “rescue [these trailblazers] from obscurity” and give them the recognition and place in history they rightly deserve.

I stand here on the shoulders of these great women and that of the women from my own history and family. I am inspired by my mother, Kye Soon Kim, who was born in 1937 during the period of Korea's 35-year long occupation by Imperial Japan. Korea was liberated in 1945 to be thrust into civil war just 5 years later. My mother was just 13 years old. She is a survivor like her mother. My mother and her generation were robbed of many opportunities. "Do everything I never had the chance to do," is her mantra.

I am forever indebted to these great women in our individual and collective histories. They have paved the way for opportunities unimaginable in their era.

In the past society defined womanhood for us but today, we are able to define it ourselves. Let us all work together to create an even stronger definition.

As we near the end of Women's History Month, I pay tribute to the brave women throughout history; to the extraordinary women in this chamber and to the beautiful women of Canada and the world.

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