Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69
|Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69|
|Citation||S.C. 1968-69, c. 38|
|Enacted by||Parliament of Canada|
|Date assented to||June 27, 1969|
|Bill||27th Parliament, Bill C-150|
|Introduced by||Pierre Trudeau, Minister of Justice|
|First reading||December 21, 1967|
|Second reading||January 23, 1969|
|Third reading||May 14, 1969|
The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (S.C. 1968-69, c. 38) was an omnibus bill that introduced major changes to the Criminal Code of Canada. It was introduced as Bill C-150 by then Minister of Justice Pierre Trudeau in the second session of the 27th Canadian Parliament on December 21, 1967. On May 14, 1969, after heated debates, Omnibus Bill C-150 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 149 (119 Liberals, 18 New Democrats, 12 Progressive Conservatives) to 55 (43 Progressive Conservatives, 11 Créditistes, 1 Liberal). The bill was a massive 126-page, 120-clause amendment to the criminal law of Canada.
It proposed, among other things, to decriminalize homosexuality, allow abortion and contraception, and regulate lotteries, gun possession, drinking and driving offences, harassing phone calls, misleading advertising and cruelty to animals. The bill was described by John Turner, Trudeau's successor as Minister of Justice, as "the most important and all-embracing reform of the criminal and penal law ever attempted at one time in this country". Trudeau famously defended the bill by telling reporters that "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation", adding that "what's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code". The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 is known in French under the title Loi de 1968-69 modifiant le droit pénal.
The climate for legislative change in Canada with regard to homosexuality was influenced in the late 1960s by the British Parliament's adoption of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which decriminalized homosexual acts in England and Wales. Another important factor was the prosecution of George Klippert and the dismissal of his appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This led to intense media and political interest, which influenced Trudeau's decision to include amendments to the Criminal Code concerning homosexuality in Bill C-150. Although the bill contained many other controversial proposals, it was the decriminalization of homosexuality that raised the most objections from Members of Parliament.
Opposition to homosexuality was so intense that the Catholic Créditistes of Quebec held up debate for three weeks. The Créditistes suggested that communism, socialism and atheism were behind the proposed changes relating to homosexuality and abortion; they demanded that a public referendum be held on these issues and staged a filibuster of Parliament over the amendments concerning abortion. An anti-gay smear campaign was directed against Pierre Trudeau (who was labelled a "beast of Sodom") and the Liberal Party in the weeks leading up to the Canadian federal election of 1968.
Among the bill's most adamant opponents were the far-right Edmund Burke Society and the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada. On the other end of the spectrum, the Canadian Bar Association called for a further relaxation of gross indecency law, and criticized the bill's unequal age of consent (21 for anal sex, as opposed to the provincial age limits of 16 and 18 for vaginal sex). A study conducted by a research group at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry also complained about the vague definition of "gross indecency" in Bill C-150 and its use to prosecute widely differing offences. The bill eventually kept the homosexual age of consent at 21; although it was later lowered to 18, Canada's age of consent for anal sex still remains higher than the age of consent for vaginal sex (16) in some provinces (but not in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta due to judicial decisions).
Abortion and contraception
Bill C-150 legalized contraception and therapeutic abortion under certain conditions. Both were previously illegal in Canada, which was still largely influenced by the Catholic Church's moral positions on these issues. Bill C-150 made it legal for women to get an abortion if a committee of three doctors felt the pregnancy endangered the mental, emotional or physical well-being of the mother. In a 1999 speech celebrating the 30th anniversary of the bill's passage, Senator Lucie Pépin argued that the new freedom provided by Bill C-150 "proved to be a stepping stone for many other freedoms and options that have altered women's place in [Canadian] society — self-esteem, education, jobs, a voice and empowerment". Abortion legislation in Canada was further liberalized in 1988 with the R. v. Morgentaler ruling, which left Canada without any laws regulating abortion other than the Canada Health Act, which governs safe medical procedures in general, and provincial regulations regarding medical procures, and health insurance regulations.
Prior to Bill C-150, Criminal Code exemptions that permitted small scale gambling on behalf of charities were introduced. Between 1892 and 1969, Canadians could wager on horse races or gamble at summer fair midways. These charitable experiences with gambling eventually led Bill C-150 to give the provincial and federal governments the opportunity to use lotteries to fund worthwhile activities (e.g. 1976 Montreal Olympics).
Gun politics in Canada were also affected by Bill C-150, which for the first time made it illegal to provide firearms to persons of "unsound mind" or criminals under prohibition orders. The law also expanded the definition of a "firearm", which, prior to 1969, included only handguns and automatic firearms, and introduced non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited firearm categories.
Driving under the influence
Bill C-150 also addressed the issue of drunk driving. The bill made it a "per se" offence to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of 80 mg/100 ml of blood. Refusal of a police officer's demand to provide a breath sample was made an offence at the same time and both began as summary conviction offences, with a mandatory minimum C$50 fine.
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