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Omnibus Bill: 'There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation'

"There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Those unforgettable words made famous by Pierre Trudeau in 1967 caused a tidal wave of controversy that rippled across the entire nation. Trudeau's Omnibus Bill brought issues like abortion, homosexuality and divorce law to the forefront for the first time, changing the political and social landscape in Canada forever.

A young, charismatic Pierre Trudeau, acting as Justice Minister, has introduced his controversial Omnibus bill in the House of Commons. The bill calls for massive changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. Trudeau makes an appeal for the decriminalization of 'homosexual acts' performed in private, telling reporters in this CBC Television clip "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." Trudeau goes on to say "what's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code."

The other controversial parts of Trudeau's comprehensive Omnibus bill concern revisions to abortion laws, making it legal for women to get one if a committee of three doctors feels the pregnancy endangers the mental, emotional or physical well-being of the mother. The bill also calls for the legalization of lotteries, new gun ownership restrictions and would allow police to perform breathalyser tests on suspected drunk drivers if they have reasonable and probable cause.
• Trudeau may have made the "bedrooms of the nation" phrase famous but it was actually coined by The Globe and Mail's Martin O'Malley.  Trudeau thanked O'Malley for the quotation.

• Trudeau first entered politics when he won a seat in Parliament for the Liberals during the 1965 national election. He was soon given the portfolio of Justice Minister and introduced the Omnibus Bill on Dec. 21, 1967.

• Canada's first Criminal Code was adopted in 1892. Trudeau called his Omnibus Bill "the most extensive revision of the Criminal Code since the 1950s" and believed it brought "the laws of the land up to contemporary society."

• The Oxford Dictionary defines omnibus as "serving several purposes at once; comprising several items". Trudeau's bill was originally named 'An Act to Amend the Criminal Code,' but later became known as the Omnibus Bill because it ran 72 pages in length and contained 109 clauses in total. It was officially known as Bill C-150 when John Turner became Justice Minister in 1968.

• Other nations in the Commonwealth, such as England and Australia, had a parliamentary history of packaging disparate topics together in one large bill. The 'homosexuality clause' of the Omnibus Bill was based on the United Kingdom's Sexual Offences Act of 1967.

• Contrary to popular belief, the bill did not attempt to decriminalize homosexuality, but instead established a distinction between public and private sexual acts. The bill only stated that certain sexual acts (such as sodomy) between consenting (homosexual or heterosexual) adults aged 21 years or older, when performed in private, were legal. The presence of more than two people made such acts 'public' and therefore still considered illegal.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Dec. 21, 1967
Guest(s): Pierre Trudeau
Duration: 2:21

Last updated: September 13, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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