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1992: Farewell, Miss Canada

The Story

No more gams and garbs, talent shows or swimsuit competitions. Organizers of the Miss Canada pageant cancel the beauty contest in its 46th year after feminists say it's outdated and sexist. Miss Canada producers cite production costs as the main reason for cancellation but agree that pageantry is no longer the best way to portray Canadian women. Women's groups say the beauty contest that started in 1946 is out of step with the changing times. "Beauty pageants are a symbol of the exploitation and oppression of women," says Judy Rebick of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women in this CBC Television clip. Supporters of the pageant disagree. Dominique Dufour, Miss Canada 1981, says Canada is losing a nation-building event that keeps the country together.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Jan. 3, 1992
Guest(s): Dominique Dufour, Nicole Dunsden, Judy Rebick
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Steve Paikin
Duration: 2:49

Did You know?

• The Miss Canada pageant began as a swimsuit contest for Hamilton, Ont.'s centennial celebrations in 1946. Forty women competed for the annual title awarded for beauty, talent and personality.

• In 1951 all contestants were from Toronto or Hamilton and a year later the same was true for all but one Vancouver entry. In these early days, beauty contenders competed without city designations.

• The event was first televised in 1963.

• When the pageant began, contestants competed for contracts to promote products like Old South orange juice.

• Contenders wore outfits they selected themselves until 1957, when Dominion Textile began to provide clothing. In the 1970s, organizers reacted to designer sponsorship by making it mandatory for the women to wear generic gowns and swimsuits.

• Starting in 1979, pageant winners competed to become Miss Universe. London, Ont.'s Karen Baldwin (1982) was the only Miss Canada to win the global pageant.

• Dominique Dufour (1981) went on to become a popular Quebec broadcaster. Another successful beauty queen, Juliette Powell (1989), hosted MuchMusic's Electric Circus and became a Toronto news anchor.

• Talent performances ranged from the conventional: dancing ballet or singing folk songs, to the offbeat: reciting Shakespeare in three languages or a karate demonstration followed by a show and tell of homemade designs.

• A year after the cancellation of the Miss Canada pageant a new competition, Miss Canada International, began. It has awards for Miss Photogenic, Miss Congeniality and Miss Fitness.

Also on January 3:
• 1863: Canada's first covered skating rink opens in Halifax.
• 1935: Federal wildlife conservation officials express concern the beaver - like the musk-ox and buffalo - is in danger of facing extinction. They suggest setting up beaver farms to augment the shrinking population of Canada's symbol.
• 1985: The Grange Commission on mysterious baby deaths at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto concludes that eight of 36 babies who died between June 1980 and March 1981 received deliberate overdoses of the heart drug digoxin.




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