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Important Moments in Canadian History

Compiled by Dr. Robert J. Belton

1968to Present

Pierre Trudeau succeeds Pearson as leader of the Liberals and wins a majority in a federal election (June 25) in an atmosphere like a media circus. A Royal Commission on the Status of Women is appointed. Canadian divorce laws are reformed.

Postal reforms end Saturday deliveries (Feb. 1). Abortion laws are liberalized (May). English and French are both recognized as offical languages by the federal government (July 9). The breathalizer is put into use to test for drunken drivers (Dec. 1).

British trade commissioner James Cross is kidnapped by the FLQ (Oct. 5), precipitating the October Crisis. Québec's labour and immigration minister Pierre Laporte is kidnapped (Oct. 10) and later found murdered. The War Measures Act is invoked (Oct. 16), banning the FLQ and leading eventually to nearly 500 arrests.

The federal government officially adopts a policy of multiculturalism. Gerhard Herzberg of the National Research Council wins the Nobel Prize in chemistry for studies of smog.

Canada wins the first hockey challenge against the Soviets. Trudeau's Liberals win a minority government by only two seats.

The House of Commons criticizes U.S. bombing of North Vietnam (Jan. 5). Henry Morgentaler is acquitted of illegal abortion charges in Montréal (Nov. 13). The separatist Parti Québecois becomes the official opposition in a provincial election.

The Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario changes its name to Ontario Hydro and begins to update its image (Mar. 4). Mikhail Baryshnikov defects in Montréal (June 29). Trudeau's Liberals win a majority government (July 8).

Toronto's CN Tower becomes the world's tallest free-standing structure (Apr. 2). The Foreign Investment Review Agency intends to screen foreign investment in Canada (July 18). TV cameras are allowed in the House of Commons for the first time. Trudeau institutes wage and price controls to fight inflation (Oct. 14).

Canada announces a 200-mile coastal fishing zone (June 4). The death penalty is abolished (July 14). The Olympic games are held in Montréal (July 17-31) under tight security. Team Canada wins the first Canada Cup (Sept. 15). René Lévesque and the Parti Québecois win a provincial election (Nov. 15). The Eaton Company discontinues catalogue sales after 92 continuous years.

Québec passes Bill 101, restricting English schooling to children of parents who had been educated in English schools (Aug. 26). Highway signs are changed to the metric system (Sept. 6).

The remains of a Soviet nuclear-powered satellite crash in Canada's north (Jan. 24). Manufacturers of birth control pills are required to provide labels of health risks for smokers and women over forty. Sun Life Assurance acknowledges that it moved its head office to Toronto because of Montréal's language laws and political instability.

Conservatives under Joe Clark win a federal election (May 22). The first uniquely Canadian gold bullion coin, stamped with a Maple Leaf, goes on sale (Sept. 5). Most of Mississauga, Ontario is evacuated to avoid derailed train cars containing chemicals (Nov. 10). The Supreme Court of Canada declares unconstitutional the creation of officially unlilingual legislatures in Manitoba and Québec (Dec. 13). Clark's Conservatives lose a non-confidence vote on the budget (Dec. 13), forcing their resignation.

Ken Taylor, Canadian ambassador to Iran, becomes an international celebrity for helping six Americans escape Tehran (Jan. 28). Canada boycotts Moscow's Olympic games due to the invasion of Afghanistan. A Québec referendum rejects sovereignty-association (May 22). "O Canada" is offically adopted as Canada's national anthem (June 27). The Supreme Court recognizes the equal distribution of assets in failed common-law relationships.

Terry Fox dies of cancer in the middle of his cross-Canada Marathon of Hope (June 29). His example eventually raises about 25 million dollars. Québec bans public signs in English (Sept. 23). The federal and provincial governments (except Québec) agree on a method to repatriate Canada's constitution (Nov. 5).

The offshore oil rig Ocean Ranger sinks, killing 84 (Feb. 15). Bertha Wilson is the first woman appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court (Mar. 4). The Québec government demand for a veto over constitutional change is rejected (Apr. 7). Canada gains a new Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Apr. 17). The worst recession since the Great Depression begins.

Pay TV begins operation (Feb. 1). Public outcry opposes the government's approval of U.S. cruise missile testing in the west. Jeanne Sauvé is appointed the first female Governor General (Dec. 23).

John Turner succeeds Trudeau as Liberal prime minister (June 30) but is soon defeated by Brian Mulroney's Conservatives with an even larger majority than that achieved by Diefenbaker in 1958 (Sept. 4). The Pope visits Canada (Sept. 9-20). Hitching a ride on the U.S. shuttle Challenger, Marc Garneau becomes the first Canadian in space (Oct. 5).

U.S. ice-breaker Polar Sea challenges Canada's Arctic sovereignty by travelling through the Northwest Passage. Mulroney and U.S. president Ronald Reagan declare mutual support for orbital Strategic Defense Initiatives (Star Wars) and Free Trade at the Shamrock Summit (so-named for their ethnic backgrounds) in Québec City (Dec. 2). Ontario Liberals under David Peterson end forty years of Conservative Premiership. Lincoln Alexander becomes Ontario's first black lieutenant-governor.

The Canadian dollar hits an all-time low of 70.2 U.S. cents on international money markets (Jan. 31). Expo '86 opens in Vancouver (May 2-Oct. 13). The U.S. imposes tariffs on some imported Canadian wood products (May 22). Canada adopts sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies (Aug. 5). Tamil refugees are found drifting off the coast of Newfoundland (Aug. 11). Canada receives a United Nations award for sheltering world refugees (Oct. 6). Canadian John Polanyi shares the Nobel prize for chemistry.

Mulroney and the provincial Premiers agree in principle to the Meech Lake Accord designed to bring Québec into the new Constitution (Apr. 30). A tornado rips through Edmonton, killing 26 and injuring hundreds (July 20). Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson sets a new world record (Aug. 30) for the 100-metre dash. The Canada- U.S. Free Trade agreement is reached (Oct. 3), but still requires ratification. Stock prices tumble throughout the world (Oct. 19).

The Supreme Court strikes down existing legislation against abortion as unconstitutional (Jan. 28). The Winter Olympics open in Calgary (Feb. 13). David See-Chai Lam, born in Hong Kong, becomes British Columbia's lieutenant-governor (Sept. 9). Ben Johnson sets a world record and wins the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in Korea (Sept. 24). Testing positive for steroids, he is stripped of his medal two days later. The Supreme Court strikes down Québec's French-only sign law (Dec. 15). Finding a loophole (the "notwithstanding" clause) in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the province reinstates the law (Dec. 21). Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon slows the ratification of the Meech Lake Accord in reaction to Québec's move. Free Trade legislation passes the House of Commons and the Senate (Dec.).

Free Trade goes into effect (Jan 1). Heather Erxleben becomes Canada's first acknowledged female combat soldier. One-dollar bills are replaced by the one-dollar coin, popularly called the "loonie." The government announces cuts in the funding of VIA Rail, to much public outcry (June 5). The first woman to lead a federal political party, Audrey McLaughlin replaces Ed Broadbent as head of the NDP (Dec. 2). Fourteen female engineering students are separated from their male colleagues and murdered by a gunman at the University of Montréal (Dec. 6).

Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells further slows down the signing of the Meech Lake Accord, but a native member of the Manitoba legislative, Elijah Harper, deals it the fatal blow with his absolute refusal to accept Québec as Canada's principal, if not only, "distinct society" (June 22). One of the many responses is the formation of the Bloc Québecois by a handful of disenchanted politicians (July 25). Bob Rae upsets David Peterson and, with a surprising majority, becomes Ontario's first NDP Premier (Sept.). Despite the Liberals' sometimes peculiar stalling tactics, the Senate passes the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (Dec.). A recession is officially announced.

The unpopular Goods and Services Tax comes into effect (Jan. 1). Canadian forces join the multinational forces in the battle to drive Saddam Hussein's Iraqi troops from Kuwait (Jan. 15). British Columbia premier Bill Van Der Zalm resigns in the midst of a real estate scandal. George Erasmus, leader of the Assembly of First Nations, resigns at the end of his second term (May); he is succeeded by Ovide Mercredi, whose popularity earns him the nickname of "eleventh premier." Yet another committee crosses the country soliciting citizens' opinions on proposed constitutional reforms. David Schindler of the University of Alberta wins the first international Stockholm Water Prize for environmental research. In a Brantford, Ontario courtroom, a Six Nations man is the first to be allowed to make a traditional native oath instead of swearing on the Bible (Nov.). The Tungavik sign an agreement with Ottawa to create a new, quasi-independent Inuit territory in the eastern Arctic.

The Miss Canada pageant is scrapped. Roberta Bondar is Canada's first female astronaut in orbit. Ontario lawyers vote no longer to swear an oath to the Queen (Jan.). Canada is the first country to sign the international bio-diversity convention at the Earth Summit in Brazil (June). Although the players are all American, the Toronto Blue Jays become the first nominally Canadian team to win baseball's World Series. Canadians vote "no" in a referendum seeking popular support for the Charlottetown Agreement, intended as a corrective to the Canadian Constitution in the wake of the failed Meech Lake Accord (Oct. 26).

Catherine Callbeck becomes the first woman Premier, in Prince Edward Island. Environmental activists cause minor damage to government buildings in Victoria, B.C., during a demonstration (Mar.). Kim Campbell replaces Brian Mulroney as the head of the Progressive Conservatives, becoming Canada's first woman Prime Minister (June). Part of northwest B.C. is set aside as a world heritage conservation site. Protesters block loggers' access to ancient forests near Clayoquot Sound (July-Aug.). The Toronto Blue Jays win the World Series for the second year in a row (Oct. 23). Liberal leader Jean Chrétien is elected in a landslide victory, with Lucien Bouchard's Bloc Québecois and Preston Manning's Reform Party only one seat apart in distant second and third places (Oct. 25). The Progressive Conservatives, in power for nine years, are reduced to a mere two seats -- less than is required to be considered an official party.

The Canadian pilot of a Korean airliner that crashed is arrested for endangering the lives of his passengers. Cigarette taxes are lowered in an attempt to reduce smuggling. Trade barriers between provinces are reduced. The Inuit of Northern Québec arrange for self-government. The Parti Québecois win a narrow majority.

The Canadian Airborne Regiment is disbanded in the midst of public outcries over hazing. The East is embroiled in fishing disputes. The provincial government of Newfoundland takes control of its schools from the church. Premier Jacques Parizeau explains the narrow failure of a Québec sovereignty referendum with some ill-advised remarks regarding non-francophones; he is soon replaced by Lucien Bouchard. The Québec Cree and Inuit peoples hold their own referenda and reject separation from Canada. Alexa McDonough is elected leader of the federal NDP (Oct.) An intruder breaks into the Prime Minister's residence (Nov.).

Huge spending cuts are initiated in most provinces. A major land-claim agreement is made with the Nisg'a of B.C. The two-dollar coin is unveiled (Feb.). Mike Harcourt, plagued by allegations that fundraisers diverted charity funds to the NDP, is succeeded by Glen Clark as Premier of B.C. The Somalia inquiry is underway. Federal legislation attempts to ban discrimination against homosexuals. The Chicoutimi region of Québec is hit by major flooding. A major international AIDS conference is held in Vancouver (July).

A thirteen kilometre bridge connecting Prince Edward Island to the mainland is opened. Massive flooding approaches Winnipeg (May). Disputes over salmon fishing lead to tension between the U.S. and Canada in the Pacific Northwest. Ontario teachers stage a huge walkout to protest unpopular policies of the Mike Harris government. A murder in Victoria draws attention to growing violence among teenaged girls (Nov.). The Supreme Court rules that natives' oral history is legitimate in making land claims in B.C. (Dec.).

A powerful ice storm paralyzes huge portions of Québec and Ontario. The federal government issues a formal apology to native peoples for past injustices like the residential school system (Jan.). Native loggers protest restrictions in the forests of New Brunswick (Apr.). Controversy surrounds the Nisga'a treaty, including some measure of self-government. A Human Rights Tribunal concludes that the Public Service Alliance of Canada has a right to call for pay equity (Jul.). The value of the Canadian dollar declines precipitously (Aug.). A Swissair MD-11 crashes into the sea off Peggy's Cove, N.S., killing 229 people (Sep.).

Several successive waves of illegal immigrants arrive on the shores of B.C. (Aug.) In the B.C. interior, native peoples log in defiance of government authorities; on the east coast, native peoples fish in defiance of government authorities (Sep.).

Controversy rages about financial mismanagement of billions of dollars of public grants (Feb.).

Last reviewed shim12/19/2012 11:16:39 PM