Bill C-150 – Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation” ~ Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

bill c-150 pierre trudeauThe Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (S.C. 1968-69, c. 38) was an omnibus bill that introduced major changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. It was introduced as Bill C-150 by then Minister of Justice Pierre Trudeau in the second session of the 27th Canadian Parliament on December 21, 1967. On May 14, 1969, after heated debates, Omnibus Bill C-150 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 149 (119 Liberals, 18 New Democrats, 12 Progressive Conservatives) to 55 (43 Progressive Conservatives, 11 Créditistes, 1 Liberal). The bill was a massive 126-page, 120-clause amendment to the criminal law of Canada.

It proposed, among other things, to decriminalize homosexuality, allow abortion and contraception, and regulate lotteries, gun possession, drinking and driving offences, harassing phone calls, misleading advertising and cruelty to animals. The bill was described by John Turner, Trudeau’s successor as Minister of Justice, as “the most important and all-embracing reform of the criminal and penal law ever attempted at one time in this country”. Trudeau famously defended the bill by telling reporters that “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation”, adding that “what’s done in private between adults doesn’t concern the Criminal Code”.[4] The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 is known in French under the title Loi de 1968-69 modifiant le droit pénal.

Homosexuality

The climate for legislative change in Canada with regard to homosexuality was influenced in the late 1960s by the British Parliament’s adoption of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalized homosexual acts in England and Wales. Another important factor was the prosecution of George Klippert and the dismissal of his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This led to intense media and political interest, which influenced Trudeau’s decision to include amendments to the Criminal Code concerning homosexuality in Bill C-150. Although the bill contained many other controversial proposals, it was the decriminalization of homosexuality that raised the most objections from Members of Parliament.

Opposition to homosexuality was so intense that the Catholic Créditistes of Quebec held up debate for three weeks. The Créditistes suggested that communism, socialism and atheism were behind the proposed changes relating to homosexuality and abortion [sound familiar?]; they demanded that a public referendum be held on these issues and staged a filibuster of Parliament over the amendments concerning abortion. An anti-gay smear campaign was directed against Pierre Trudeau (who was labelled a “beast of Sodom”) and the Liberal Party in the weeks leading up to the Canadian federal election of 1968.

The bill was a massive 126-page document, and was considered the largest omnibus bill every passed in Commons history. However, it is interesting to note that the budget bill just introduced by the Harper government is 300 pages in length.

[Source: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_Law_Amendment_Act,_1968-69]

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My list of of interesting books about Canada (to date).

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