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Sexual Health in Canada

History of Contraception in Canada

It hasn't always been legal to buy contraception in Canada, but many groups have always believed that people have the right to choose what happens to their bodies.

Between 1892 and 1969, selling or advertising birth control was a Criminal Code offense that could net a person two years in prison. Some escaped charges because of tolerance, indifference or a loophole that allowed such information to be distributed for the public good. But this indifference didn't keep Toronto pharmacist Harold Fine from being charged for selling condoms in 1961. In response to Fine’s conviction, the first chapter of Planned Parenthood Association was founded by birth control crusaders Barbara and George Cadbury, as well as prominent doctors and church leaders.

Around this same time, scientists were tweaking the first hormonal birth control pill. Up to that point, the only options for 'family planning' were barriers like rubber or lambskin condoms, diaphragms and cervical caps. Some people used natural methods like withdrawal or the rhythm method.

In 1969, Parliament finally changed the law to allow contraception to be distributed. Abortions were also legalized, although they were restricted by many regulations until 1988. That same year, the Cadburys' group became the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, which eventually morphed into the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health before merging with Canadians for Choice and Action Canada for Population and Development in 2015 to become Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights.



1960 - The first hormonal birth control, Enovid, is approved for use in Canada, but not as a contraceptive, only for cycle control

1969 - Contraception and restricted abortions become legal in Canada

1988 - Restrictions on abortion are declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, then lifted

1990 - Injectable progestin-only contraceptives were developed

1991 - The contraceptive implant Norplant became available in Canada

1999 - Plan B, a brand name emergency contraceptive, is approved by Health Canada, by prescription

2000 - Norplant was taken off the Canadian market 

2008 - Plan B is allowed to be sold over-the-counter, although many pharmacies still keep it behind the counter

2014 - Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights emerges from three organizations: Canadians for Choice, Action Canada for Population and Development and the Canadian Federation for Sexual Health