Voici le texte de la scénette (skit) jouée le vendredi 15 avril devant l’Hôtel de ville de Moncton. Il est ici tel que présenté, avec un rôle en anglais et l’autre en français.Version français here.
Below is the text of a small skit that was performed Friday, April 15th, in front of Moncton City Hall. It is presented as it was performed, with one role in English and one role in French. Download the all English version here.
I am most pleased to be with you good persons here today to mark the anniversary of the province of New Brunswick extending the right to vote to certain of its female citizens.
Now, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mabel French. I’m apparently slightly well-known nowadays as the first female lawyer in New Brunswick AND British Columbia, as well as a suffragette. Back in the day, when I first attempted to be permitted to enter the New Brunswick Barrister’s Society, I was informed by the Supreme Court of the province that I could not join because, as a woman, I was not a person! I fought that battle, gained entry to the Society and then later pulled the same stunt in British Columbia.
Enough about me, though! This Sunday marks the anniversary of the occasion on which many of New Brunswick women gained the right to vote provincially.
In case some of your young’uns have forgotten, women have not always had the right to vote, so I’m going to give a brief history lesson!
-Women, along with infants and persons deemed lunatics, were thought to not have the mental capacities required to vote. Certain men were also prohibited from voting including Jewish, Aboriginal, and black men. For a period, Roman Catholics in New Brunswick, could not vote either, effectively disenfranchising most of the Acadian and Irish population.
-Since the 1800’s, Canada women landowners voted municipally based on the notion of no taxation without representation. This was true in New Brunswick, though it was almost certainly Anglophone Christian women of European decent and some affluence who were able to exercise their right to vote.
-It wasn’t until 1918, that women aged 21 and older were extended the right to vote federally. Despicably, Aboriginal women were denied inclusion in this right.
-Now, as to why we’re here today! On April 17th, 1919 women in New Brunswick were extended the right to vote provincially. Again, Aboriginal women were not extended this right. It was only in 1951 that the Indian Act was amended to allow Aboriginal women living on reserves to vote in band elections and only in 1963 that New Brunswick Aboriginal women and men living on reserves given the right to vote provincially.
Alright, I’m done with my history lesson. Now, because I was a suffragette, I’m actually quite bloody bored with talking about women getting the franchise! What is far more interesting to me is talking about how far women have come since my heyday!
I can only imagine that now, almost 100 years since many women were first extended federal and provincial voting rights that women must make up half of the provincial legislative assembly! (Handler taps Mabel on the shoulder, leaning in and whispering in her ear.) PARDON??! Women have had the vote in New Brunswick for almost a hundred years and only 14% of the provinces’ MLAs are women?! Well, I declare that THAT is certainly a disappointment.
I am most certain that there have been impressive gains for women in other areas then. Like wages! Now that women are full and equal participants in society, I trust that we’re no longer forced into only a select few traditional careers that are traditionally underpaid. (Handler again taps Mable and leans in to whisper.) 88 CENTS FOR EVERY DOLLAR A MAN EARNS?!!?!? I must be losing my hearing!
Fine, fine, well, if the women of New Brunswick still don’t have adequate representation in politics or fair wages at this juncture, there must be some other issues that have been dealt with appropriately. (Looking at her handler.) Please tell me that in this good province women have dominion over their bodies and have access to a full range of, oh what do you call them, reproductive rights? (Handler shakes heads and holds up empty hands, almost embarrassed.)
(During the following section Mabel does not take her eyes off the handler, who keeps shaking her head no in answer to the questions.)
No? Well tell me that violence against women has been eradicated?
Has society at least stopped blaming women for the sexual violations carried out against their bodies?
Have Francophone and Aboriginal women ceased to be subject to ongoing marginalization?
Has a system of reliable and affordable childcare outside of the home been developed so women can fully participate in the workforce?
Have you at least stopped insisting on dressing baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink?! NO?!!?
Well, I must say that things in New Brunswick have not progressed NEARLY as much as I had hoped. Frankly, I am extremely disappointed in this sad state of affairs. Tell me, do you not have a temperance union, an association of women to organize and agitate for better treatment of women?
(L’assistante s’avance et prend le microphone) L’assistante : En fait, plusieurs organisations fantastiques existent et se penchent sur ces enjeux. Malheureusement, plusieurs d’entre elles ont peine à trouver les fonds nécessaires à leur travail de revendication, ou encore, la loi ne leur permet qu’une certaine latitude en matière de défense des droits. Bien sûr il y a, dans notre province, le Conseil consultatif sur la condition de la femme au Nouveau-Brunswick. Il s’agit d’une agence gouvernementale indépendante ayant pour mandat la revendication du droit des femmes, la recherche et les consultations et la sensibilisation aux enjeux d’intérêt pour les femmes du Nouveau-Brunswick.
Mabel: Excellent! A government agency dedicated to women! Well, we all know that typical government departments are strictly occupied with the concerns of men, so of course there should be an agency dedicated to women! It’s a large department, I assume, about half the government? I mean, women ARE half the population!
L’assistante : Um, en fait, leur budget n’a jamais excédé un demi-million de dollars, ce qui, de nos jours, est une somme assez négligeable quand on pense aux dépenses publiques, mais —(Mabel l’interromp).
Mabel: Half a million dollars? What is that, less than a measly dollar for every woman in the province?!
L’assistante : Oui mais, vous voyez—
Mabel: This is preposterous! How are women supposed to be—
Mabel: —full and equal members of society if—
L’assistante : MABEL! (Mabel, abasourdie, se tait et regarde son assistante.) Le gouvernement du Nouveau-Brunswick vient en fait tout juste d’abolir le Conseil consultatif. En fait, les représentants ont dit que l’abolition du Conseil démontrait clairement à quel point nous avons fait du progrès. Ils ont expliqué que tout comme le droit de vote des femmes, il s’agissait d’une décision choquante à premier abord, une décision qui provoquerait bien des débats, mais que les gens reconnaitraient en fin de compte qu’il s’agissait de la bonne chose à faire.
Mabel (sputtering): What… you… I don’t… Why did you all let them do this?!?!!?
L’assistante : Eh bien, nous ne les avons pas laissé faire. Ils… l’ont tout simplement fait. Tout au long de la campagne électorale, ils ont promis de consulter le Conseil consultatif, s’ils étaient portés au pouvoir. Une fois élus, par contre, ils ont simplement éliminé le financement de l’agence et prévoient abroger la loi qui a créé le Conseil. Personne ne nous a consultés… nous n’aurions pas accepté que le Conseil soit aboli!
Mabel: You had a LAW mandating the existence of this Council and they’re just going to change it?!?! What’s next, revoking women’s right to vote?!?!
L’assistante : En toute franchise, un autre organisme gouvernemental de la province s’occupe aussi des enjeux qui touchent les femmes. On nous a assuré que cet organisme prendrait le flambeau et défendrait les droits des femmes – et que tous les services seraient préservés.
Mabel: I see. And is this office independent? It is able to voice dissent and discontent? And the person responsible for this department is a strong advocate for women?
L’assistante : Il s’agit en fait d’une section du Conseil exécutif et qui travaille donc sous l’égide du premier ministre. La personne qui en est responsable est la députée nommée ministre responsable de la condition de la femme.
Mabel: Ah! You have a Minister responsible for the Status of Women! Well, surely you can appeal to this person to reinstate the Council! Anyone worth her salt as an activist knows that you have to have an independent voice—(Handler interrupts)
L’assistante : Pour tout vous dire, la ministre appuie l’abolition du Conseil.
Mabel (taking a slow deep breathe before beginning): So. The good women of this province continue to be underrepresented in all levels of political assembly (Handler nods) yet the government of New Brunswick has seen fit to, without consultation, eliminate the incredibly small and inexpensive Council that has served as women’s independent voice in government (Handler nods) all the while telling you that the very same Minister who supports the abolition of this Council will henceforth represent your concerns? (Handler nods. Mabel takes another deep breath). Well, I must tell you that you must organize to have this decision reversed! If I may offer some advice, in my day, we found petitions to be quite an effective means of exercising political pressure. Tell me, have you arranged any such actions?
L’assistante : Bien entendu! Nous avons créé un blog (Mabel semble confuse en entendant ce mot.) par l’entremise duquel, grâce a une « manifestation photos », plusieurs groupes – des groupes nationaux d’envergure, en fait – expriment leur mécontentement face à l’abolition du Conseil consultatif. Nous y avons également publié une déclaration qui dénonce l’abolition et demande le rétablissement du Conseil – elle porte la signature de 59 organismes provinciaux. Oh, et nous lancerons également une pétition papier à l’intention du grand public sou peu!
Mabel: Well, I am relieved to know that the spirit of organization and agitation hasn’t left the women of this good province. Because, let me tell you, no government is going to give you equality without your demanding it first. What government will do, in my experience, is treat you as a non-person, see how far they can push you, and then push you even further. If you allow, in this 21st century, your government to take your independent voice in government from you without your express consent, then I am gravely worried for the future that awaits you. As for the government of New Brunswick, I would for like them to know that, as a very modern woman from 1919, I find their decision to abolish the New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women quite backwards and old fashioned. Now, if you will excuse me, based on what I’ve heard today, I believe that I have some rabble-rousing I need to attend to.