Cover: No Place for the State: The Origins and Legacies of the 1969 Omnibus Bill, edited by Christopher Dummitt and Christabelle Sethna. illustration: a white door hanger featuring the title hangs from a doorknob, set against a red background.
300 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:15 Oct 2020
Release Date:15 Apr 2020
Release Date:15 Apr 2020
Release Date:15 Apr 2020

No Place for the State

The Origins and Legacies of the 1969 Omnibus Bill

UBC Press

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” Pierre Elliott Trudeau told reporters. He was making the case for the most controversial of his proposed reforms to the Criminal Code, those concerning homosexuality, birth control, and abortion.

In No Place for the State, contributors offer complex and often contrasting perspectives as they assess how the 1969 Omnibus Bill helped shape sexual and moral politics in Canada by examining the bill’s origins, social implications, and repercussions. The new legal regime had significant consequences in such areas as adoption, divorce, and suicide. After the bill passed, a great many Canadians continued to challenge how sexual behaviour was governed; and feminist and gay liberation activists took the reforms as a starting point, demanding much more exhaustive changes to the law.

Fifty years later, there is no definitive story of the Omnibus Bill and its origins and legacies are equivocal. The state still seems interested in the bedrooms of the nation, and this incisive study explains why that matters.

Readers interested in Canadian history, women’s rights, reproductive justice, law, and politics will find this book compelling, as will queer and feminist activists.

No Place for the State is invaluable for bringing renewed focus on, and critical attention to, the 1969 Omnibus Bill. It should be read widely. Emily van der Meulen, associate professor, Criminology, Ryerson University
This is the first collection to bring together scholarship on the social, political, intellectual, and legal implications of the 1969 Omnibus Bill. The themes it explores remain both timely and relevant, fifty years after the legislation. Lara Campbell, professor, Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University

Christopher Dummitt is an associate professor in the School for the Study of Canada at Trent University. His book Unbuttoned: A History of Mackenzie King’s Secret Life was a finalist for the Shaughnessy-Cohen Prize for best book on Canadian politics, as well as for the Canada Prize and the J.W. Dafoe prize. He is also the creator of the Canadian history podcast 1867 & All That. Christabelle Sethna is a professor in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, and the lead investigator for a research study on transnational travel for abortion services from the 1960s to the 1990s. Her most recent book is Abortion across Borders: Transnational Travel and Access to Abortion Services, co-edited with Gayle Davis.

Contibutors: Katrina Ackerman, Lori Chambers, Scott deGroot, Bruce Douville, Jessica Haynes, Steve Hewitt, Tom Hooper, Rachael Johnstone, Gary Kinsman, Karen Pearlston, Isabelle Perreault, Shannon Stettner

Introduction / Christopher Dummitt and Christabelle Sethna

Part 1: Regulation, Rupture, and Continuity

1 Because It’s 1969: The Omnibus Bill and the New Morality of the Self / Christopher Dummitt

2 “Is Abortion Ever Right?”: The United Church of Canada and the Debate over Abortion Law Reform, 1960–1980 / Katrina Ackerman, Bruce Douville, and Shannon Stettner

3 Not a Gift from Above: The Mythology of Homosexual Law Reform and the Making of Neoliberal Queer Histories / Gary Kinsman

Part 2: Activist Responses

4 “The State’s Key to the Bedroom Door”: Queer Perspectives on Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s “Just Society” in an Era of Bathhouse Raids / Tom Hooper

5 Law Reform, Liberal Democracies, and the Transnational History of Gay Liberation / Scott deGroot

6 Seeing Red: The Toronto Women’s Caucus, the RCMP Security Service, and the Campaign to Repeal the 1969 Abortion Law / Christabelle Sethna and Steve Hewitt

Part 3: Beyond the Omnibus Bill

7 Insulated from the Law: Married Women, the Pill, and the “Public Good” / Jessica Haynes

8 “Something More”: The State’s Place in the Bedrooms of Lesbian Nation / Karen Pearlston

9 Life Interrupted: The Biopolitics of Abortion and Attempted Suicide in Canada in the Late Sixties and Early Seventies / Isabelle Perrault

Part 4: Back to the Future

10 The Law (and) Unintended Consequences: Adoption and the Omnibus Bill of 1969 / Lori Chambers

11 Is That Really Necessary? The Regulation of Abortion in Canada and the Framework of Medical Necessity / Rachael Johnstone


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