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Looking back on the birth control movement

The Story


In the sixties, the pill is widely used and accepted. However, an odd contradiction in Canada's Criminal Code makes it illegal to sell or advertise information on contraceptives. But as shown in this CBC Television special, a movement to change the law is gaining momentum. The law has been enforced, albeit irregularly, against some early pioneers of the birth control movement in Canada including Dorothea Palmer and Harold Fine. In the thirties, Dorothea Palmer was working for A.R. Kaufman, a prominent birth control advocate who had set up the Parent's Information Bureau in Kitchener, Ont. In 1936, Palmer was charged with disseminating information about contraceptives. She was acquitted a year later after her lawyers found her to have acted in the public good. In a later incident, Toronto pharmacist Harold Fine was convicted and fined for distributing condoms. His 1960 conviction spurred Barbara and George Cadbury to set up the first chapter of Planned Parenthood in Canada in 1961. The Cadburys had the informal backing of the Anglican, Presbyterian, United and Unitarian Churches.

Medium: Television
Program: Close-Up
Broadcast Date: Nov. 11, 1962
Guests: Barbara Cadbury, Oakley Dalgleish, Dorothea Ferguson, A.R. Kaufman, Paul Sauriol, Mary Scott, Fr. Edward Sheridan, Paul St. Pierre
Interviewer: George Ronald
Narrator: Rex Loring
Duration: 16:06

Did You know?


• The first birth control clinic in Canada opened its doors in Hamilton in 1932.
• Women have been attempting to control pregnancy since the beginning of time. One method of contraception practiced by aboriginal peoples of Canada involved drinking alcohol boiled with beaver testicle.
• Birth control advocate A.R. Kaufman was motivated by the fear of "social unrest" due to huge working class families.
• Many prominent Canadians including David Suzuki and June Callwood told CBC Radio that the birth control pill was the most extraordinary scientific achievement of the 1960s.


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