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About the Senate - Qualifications

The Constitution Act, 1867 outlines the qualifications of senators. Individuals must be both citizens of Canada and at least thirty years of age to be eligible for appointment to the Senate. Senators must also reside in the provinces or territories for which they are appointed.
 
The Constitution Act, 1867, also sets property qualifications for senators. A senator must possess land worth at least $4,000 in the province for which he or she is appointed. Moreover, a senator must own real and personal property worth at least $4,000 (adjusted for inflation this number could be estimated between $175,000 and $200,000 in current dollars), above his or her debts and liabilities. These property qualifications were originally introduced to ensure that the Senate represented Canada's economic and social C)lite. Now, however, the sum in question is far less valuable due to the effects of inflation. Nevertheless, the property qualification has never been abolished or amended, and initially caused problems with the 1997 Senate appointment of Sister Peggy Butts, a Catholic nun who had taken a vow of poverty. (The situation was resolved when her order formally transferred a small parcel of land to her name.)
 
The original Constitution of Canada did not explicitly bar women from sitting as senators. However, until the end of the 1920s, only men had been appointed to the body. In 1927, five Canadian women ("The Famous Five") requested the Supreme Court of Canada to determine whether females were eligible to become senators. Specifically, they asked whether women were considered "persons" under the British North America Act, 1867, which provided: "The Governor General shall ... summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and ... every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and a Senator."
 
In Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General) (commonly known as the "Persons Case"), the Supreme Court unanimously held that women could not become senators. The court based its decision on the grounds that the framers of the Constitution did not foresee female senators, as women did not participate in politics at the time; moreover, they pointed to the constitution's use of the pronoun "he" when referring to senators. On appeal, however, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (effectively Canada's highest court at the time) ruled that women were indeed "persons" in the meaning of the Constitution. Four months later, the government of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King recommended for appointment Canada's first female senator, Cairine Wilson of Ontario.
 
 
 
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