“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” – Pierre Elliot Trudeau
In 1969, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s government oversaw sweeping changes to many areas of Canadian life. In a progressive leap forward that would seem impossible in these days of bitter political sentiments (e.g., loathing) between parties and their followers, the majority Liberals pushed through the following historic and sensible amendments to Canadian laws. Many are rights that we completely would take for granted today. In many cases the older laws had been heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, whose power over Canadian society had begun to wane significantly in the 1950s and 1960s.
It took a long time but Trudeau’s Liberals eventually led the vote for the changes (known as the Criminal Law Amendment Act) and despite strong opposition by the Conservatives and the Quebec Catholic Créditistes party, the bill passed 149 to 55. Explaining the need for the changes Trudeau said “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” and “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code”. Amen.
Things that were illegal in Canada before 1969
Before 1969, selling or possessing birth control pills (or any other “medicine, drug or article” intended…as a method of preventing conception”) was illegal in Canada.
The fight to legalize homosexual behaviour between adult men, was a passionate one, with an enraged Catholic church movement insisting on a national referendum on the issue.
Previously a serious criminal offense, abortions that could endangered the physical, emotional or mental health of the mother were made legal. This was seen as a major breakthrough for women in Canada powering future improvements in education, jobs, politics among other areas.
Apart from betting on horse races, gambling was also illegal in Canada, but the 1969 changes allowed modest gambling operations if they benefited charities. Before long the federal and provincial governments were introducing massive public gambling programs, initially in the form of lotteries, but a major casino boom followed in the 1990s.
Other Key Changes
Previously drunk driving was not a crime, but that all changed in 1969, although the initial penalties were not particularly harsh at only $50.
The laws governing guns in Canada was completely overhauled in 1969, enabling governments for the first time to make it illegal for people “of unsound mind” and dangerous criminal to possess guns.