The plan to roll out metric gradually throughout the 1970s

Canadians didn't have to get used to new food packaging and road signs all at the same time.

'The metric system is advisable, and inevitable,' said a 1971 report

Metric plans were all laid out in 1974

48 years ago
Duration 1:57
In 1974, Canada's metric commission unveiled its schedule for converting Canada to a "metric economy."

Metric was already well established in Canada by November 1974, but there was still a long way to go before everyone was driving in kilometres after buying gas by the litre.

To help the process along, there was the Metric Commission. 

"The Metric Commission is a sort of father persuader," said CBC reporter Peter Daniel.

Even though a 1971 government white paper had said metric was "advisable and inevitable" in Canada, there was no forthcoming legislation to force the adoption of metric.

'No turning back'

The Metric Commission projected that all food and drink packages would convert to metric by mid-1976. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"The commission has now taken things to the point where there is no turning back," said Daniel. 

At the bustling headquarters of the Metric Commission, a board displayed where some of the 60-odd metric committees were "discussing the problems of metrication" on any given day.

"It could be the new sizes of tomato juice cans, sugar packaging, or screws and nails used in construction," said Daniel.

Posters showed the schedules for metric to be incorporated into various aspects of Canadian life: road signs by 1977, teaching in schools from 1975 to 1980, and food packaging by mid-1976.

At the grocery store 

Metric measurements make grocery shopping tricky

49 years ago
Duration 2:09
CBC reporter Norman Depoe surveys a grocery store for opinions on the new metric system of measurement.

As the CBC's Norman DePoe had reported almost a year earlier, metric was already in use on packages like Mutt Kibble dog food, Pepsodent toothpaste and Five Roses flour.

"The big problem is that the old sizes come out to odd figures in the metric system," he said.

But shoppers were unfazed by the experience.

One woman said she didn't pay attention to the numbers on the package, another admitted she might have to in 10 years, and a third said she was already using metric at the hospital where she worked.

'Metric generation'

Hospitals had begun using metric by late 1973, and the weight of this baby was measured at 3,830 grams. (That's about eight pounds, seven ounces.) (CBC News/CBC Archives)

And that was where metric might be noticed more than in a supermarket.

"It may come as a shock to the new fathers and mothers, but their infants are being weighed in in grams," said DePoe. "This one at 3,830."

"I'm not going to tell you how much that is in pounds and ounces. What's important is that he's one of the first of Canada's metric generation. The rest of us have only a few years to get in step." 

Road signs would start displaying speed limits in metric in 1977, said the metric commission. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

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