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Introducing Avril Campbell

When Kim Campbell set her sights on Ottawa, she was a tart-tongued, unapologetically determined, razor-sharp intellectual. She confounded politicians and voters alike and her career was accordingly thrilling, awkward, at times thorny and ultimately very brief. CBC Archives examines Campbell's meteoric rise through the political ranks from her role as an outspoken backbencher to Canada's first woman prime minister.

The little blond girl with the big microphone will one day face many microphones when she becomes Canada's first female prime minister. But in this CBC Television clip, young Avril Campbell is just a curious and plucky 10-year-old. Campbell, a host and reporter on the children's program Junior Television Club, interviews cowboy entertainer Alberta Slim about Susie the elephant in this 1957 episode.
Junior Television Club ran for nine weeks in the spring of 1957 on CBC Television.
• Campbell was discovered when producers came to her Vancouver school in search of talent. Campbell auditioned and was offered a regular spot on the show.

• "I interviewed guests on the talent segment and moderated a panel discussion at the end of each program on such important issues as how much allowance kids our age should be getting. I learned a lot about television during those nine weeks. This early experience allowed me to be more comfortable with the medium than many." Kim Campbell, Time and Chance, 1996.

• Avril Phaedra Douglas Campbell was born on March 10, 1947, at Port Alberni, B.C., to George and Phyllis Campbell. 

• While Avril and her older sister attended boarding school, the Campbells' marriage began to crack. In 1959, Phyllis left Canada for Europe. Avril and her older sister Alix wouldn't see their mother again for another 10 years.

• After starting Grade 9 at Prince of Wales Secondary School in Vancouver, Campbell changed her first name from Avril to Kim - a name her mother had once considered when she was pregnant. "In hindsight," Campbell wrote in her autobiography Time and Chance, "the desire to flee from a name so closely associated with Mum on the one hand, but to reinforce my attachment to her on the other, indicates my natural emotional confusion towards her at that time."

• Campbell thrived in school and became the first female student council president at her high school. In 1964, while pursuing her Bachelor of Arts at the University of British Columbia, Campbell was elected president of the freshman class.


• While studying for her undergraduate degree at UBC, Campbell met mathematics professor Nathan Divinsky. The two were married on Sept. 15, 1972.
• After studying at the London School of Economics and completing a three-month study trip to the Soviet Union, Campbell returned to Canada. She then taught undergraduates at the University of British Columbia and later Vancouver Community College between the years 1975 and 1979.

• Campbell subsequently left the teaching side of academia and enrolled in law school at UBC. Also at this time, she successfully ran for a seat on Vancouver's public school board. Campbell graduated from law school in 1983 and articled at the Ladner Downs law firm in Vancouver.

• Campbell quickly gained notice as a tough negotiator on the school board and won her fair share of allies and enemies. Vancouver lawyer Phil Rankin served on the board with Campbell. Campbell and Rankin had a notoriously combative rapport. He recalled, "she's arrogant and absolutely one of the most outrageously rude and self-centred people I've ever met." (The Ottawa Citizen, March 27, 1993.)
• Voters, however, liked Campbell and in 1982 they returned her to the board with overwhelming support. She was promoted to board chairman.

• Campbell ran in her first provincial election in 1983 and was defeated by Gary Lauk and Emery Barnes. The Vancouver Centre riding elected two MLAs. Campbell returned to practicing law until Premier Bill Bennett recruited her to act as his office's executive director and policy adviser.
• In 1982, Campbell and Divinsky separated after nine years of marriage. They had no children although Campbell developed a close relationship with Divinsky's three daughters.
Medium: Television
Program: Junior Television Club
Broadcast Date: June 12, 1957
Guest(s): Alberta Slim
Interviewer: Avril (Kim) Campbell
Duration: 2:25

Last updated: March 30, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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