8.3.6 Compare the social and cultural trends in Canada in the 50s, 60s, and 70s
- Suggest reasons for the conformity of the 1950s and its rejection in the 1960s and 1970s
- Describe the idealism that developed in the 1960s by examining movements such as the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement, the peace movement, and environmentalism
Civil Rights in Canada
The civil rights movement that protested against segregation, discrimination and racism in Canada was not covered as extensively by the media like the movement in the U.S. The movement in Canada was not as violent as the one in the U.S. either. In the 1950s new laws were passed that made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race and religion. Canadians could no longer refuse to employ people, provide services or prevent people from moving into their neighbourhoods. The Canadian Bill of Rights that passed in 1960, established a framework for the rights of all Canadians.
Racist immigration laws had been changed as well and now Asian and African people were free to come to Canada. Communities of African-Canadians also began to demand fairer treatment during this time period as well.
Multiculturalism was developed in 1971 by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. The idea was that all Canadians can and should participate equally in all aspects of Canadian culture while preserving their cultural heritage.
In this period, women continued to question their position in society and the limitations they faced. By the 1960s, women were challenging the domestic and child-care role that society dictated to them. They began to demand equality in the workplace, including opportunities for advancement and equal pay for equal work.
Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson created the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967 to look at demands from women’s groups. Its recommendations included:
Maternity benefits for working women
Establishment of daycare centres
Equal pay for equal work
Free access to birth control information
Abortion on demand
No discrimination on the basis of gender or marital status
Improved women’s rights for unemployment and pension plans
In response, the government established an Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Women’s groups continued to press for full implementation of these recommendations through the 1970s and beyond.
By the late 1960s, the peace movement in Canada came together around criticism of the Vietnam War and a perceived failure on the part of Canada to distance itself from American policies. They also tried to welcome Americans who were trying to resist the draft. By comparison, and despite the fact that it was a period when there was a significant nuclear arms build-up by the USSR, the 1970s were relatively quiet. The turn of the decade witnessed growing tensions between the superpowers relating to such events as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
The 1960s marked a different era for conservation and the environmental movement in Canada. Conservationist attitudes were no longer restricted primarily to naturalist groups. A growing number of Canadians became concerned not only about using resources wisely but also about the effects of human activity on the environment.
During the 1960s, concern about pollution became a major public issue. Specialized groups, largely urban based, such as the Society for the Promotion of Environmental Conservation (in the West; now Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, or SPEC), Pollution Probe (in the East) and the Ecology Action Centre (in the Maritimes) were born. These groups were led by scientists such as Donald Chant, who was deeply concerned about issues such as air polution, water pollution, hazardous wastes and the careless use of pesticides (documented by American conservationist Rachel Carson in her 1962 book, Silent Spring). Preservation of the natural environment had come to be seen not only as a question of recreation and preserving scenic beauty, but also as important to human survival. In 1971, Greenpeace was founded in Vancouver, and soon became a high-profile international activist force for various environmental causes.