Rosemary Speirs' Biography

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Photo: Toronto Star

Dr. Rosemary Speirs’ cause is electing more women.

As the founder of Equal Voice, Rosemary Speirs has worked as a volunteer to ensure the participation of girls and women in Canadian politics. She has demonstrated her conviction that changes to promote women in politics will improve the opportunities of other under-represented Canadians, and create a healthier, more democratic political system.

In a long newspaper career, Rosemary Speirs became well-known as one of Canada’s leading journalists. She served as a syndicated national affairs columnist, Ottawa Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, and Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for the Globe and Mail. She also spent years working a political reporter and labour reporter for The Toronto Star and Canadian Press in Toronto and Montreal.

Equal Voice was the brainchild of Rosemary Speirs, Libby Burnham and Christina McCall. The organization launched in May 2001 and brought the under-representation of women at all levels of government to the public’s attention. Rosemary Speirs built Equal Voice into a national organization and, in doing so, spearheaded an innovative model for “multi partisan” political action and organizing.

To right the imbalance for women in politics, Rosemary Speirs pressed political leaders to nominate increased numbers of women candidates in winnable ridings and urged electoral reforms that would favour the election of more women, including proportional representation.She founded theWomen’s Political ConneXion, which linked 44 women’s groups across Canada supporting Equal Voice’s mission.

Rosemary Speirs, Patricia Dumas, Diane Williamson and Phyllis Tanaka launched Canada’s first comprehensive, online campaign school for women interested in running called Getting to the Gate. This was followed by Deep Roots, Strong Wings,an online campaign school developed by and for Indigenous women.

For her trailblazing efforts and feminist activism, Rosemary Speirs has been honoured with the Governor General’s Award in Commemoration of the Person’s Case and the YWCA Toronto Woman of Distinction Award. She was also awarded an honorary doctorate by Trent University.

In 2019, Equal Voice paid tribute to its founder with the launch of the Rosemary Speirs Leadership Grant, a new component of the coveted Daughters of the Vote program. This grant, made possible by financial support from Status of Women Canada, directly funds 338 young women and gender non-conforming leaders to accelerate advocacy efforts in their local communities across Canada.