Congratulations to Betsy Bury who is one of five recipients this year of the Governor General Award in Commemoration of the Persons Case. The Award was created in 1979 to mark the 50thanniversary of the ground breaking Persons Case, which changed the course of history for women in Canada. In 1929, after two years of legal debate, Canada’s highest court of appeal declared that the word “person” included both women and men. The decision was made by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain, making it possible for women to serve in the Senate. It also paved the way for women’s increased participation in public and political life. The case had been brought before the courts in 1927 by five Alberta women who became known as the “Famous Five.” The case became known as the Persons Case. This Award recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the goal of equality for women and girls in Canada. Recipients come from all parts of the country and from all walks of life.
To anyone who knows Betsy, it will come as no surprise to learn that she is a recipient of this Award. Her outstanding leadership in several gender equality initiatives mirrors the courage, integrity and hard work of the “Famous Five” of the Persons Case. For more than 60 years, Betsy has supported essential social justice initiatives in Saskatoon, particularly in the areas of women’s rights and access to health care services. Her career began with the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division during World War II. Later, while raising a family, she was inspired by newly elected Premier Tommy Douglas to join the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and participated actively in local and provincial politics. She went on to help establish our very own Community Health Services (Saskatoon) Association, also known as the Saskatoon Community Clinic, in response to the 1962 doctor’s strike against universal health care. As the Clinic’s first director of member relations, Betsy sought to ensure that Saskatchewan women and children had continued access to medical services and were never again put at risk due to physicians’ unwillingness to provide care. Later, while serving as the Clinic’s first Health Ombudsman, Betsy helped launch Saskatchewan’s first Planned Parenthood clinic serving on the board of the Saskatoon Family Planning Centre.
Throughout her long life, she has volunteered her considerable energies to political causes. An outspoken advocate for women’s increased representation in the political realm, she has supported the campaigns of many candidates and encouraged countless other women to participate in public life. Retired since 1988, Ms. Bury has continued her political and social activism. She has worked with many social justice organizations, including Project Ploughshares, Veterans against Nuclear War and CHEP Good Food Inc. She performs regularly with the Raging Grannies.