In 1967, Pierre Trudeau, then Minister of Justice, proclaimed: “The state has no business in the bedrooms of the Nation.” The Criminal Law Amendment Act passed in 1969, partially legalizing abortion when the physical and mental health of the woman was at risk; it also legalized birth control and decriminalized homosexuality.
As new laws came into effect, obtaining an abortion was challenging. Pro-choice advocates realized that a place was needed for women to get non-judgmental information and counselling on abortion, so in 1970 a group of feminists joined forces to create a referral service called the Calgary Abortion Information Centre. This group of women, all with diverse ideas, beliefs, and life experiences, came together with the idea of respect for women’s life and their ability to make choices about their own bodies. On January 31, 1972, the Calgary Birth Control Association was registered as a non-profit in Alberta, and then a Canadian Registered Charity.
The organization was formed as a social movement was unfolding. It was a world where women were gaining reproductive freedoms, and it was an exciting time in the feminist movement. Ms. Magazine began regular publication, and in Canada the National Action Committee on the Status of Women was formed. At the same time, the gay rights movement emerged as homosexuality was decriminalized. The Stonewall Riots were the catalyst and pride marches and the fight for equal rights began.
This dedicated and visionary group of volunteers came together to ensure that women had support and information regarding their reproductive health, and they were deeply committed to a mission of health promotion and community education. This is still the foundation of Centre for Sexuality, and our work has grown from these strong feminist roots planted fifty years ago.
Today, our work remains grounded in choice and equity through programs like Relationships and Sexual Health Education, through our community engagement work with diverse individuals and communities including 2SLGBTQ+, immigrant and newcomer, older adults, and people with disabilities, and through our training centre which provides capacity building opportunities to professionals from many sectors to better equip them to integrate healthy sexuality policy and practice into their work and workplace culture.
Thank you to every single volunteer, employee, supporter, funder, donor and community partner who has joined us in this work over the decades, helping us tackle tough issues with bold determination. Connection has been a key theme of our organization since 1972 – creating opportunities to connect around issues, creating connections that build community, and connecting like-minded individuals like you who become friends and allies for life. The Centre has always been about people – your passions formed our beginnings, pointed us in the direction of our present, and will continue to shape our bold vision for an inclusive future.
This year, we’re celebrating five decades of educating and advocating in Calgary and beyond, and we invite you to join us. We’ll be sharing the milestones, the turning points, and the exciting, important, and sometimes shocking stories that make up 50 years of progress and highlighting the trailblazers who brought us here today.