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This Was Canada in the 1970s

This Was Canada in the 1970s

This Was Canada in the 1970s

This week on we’re celebrating the 1970s in all their bell-bottomed glory. I thought I’d do something a little different with this post and highlight five significant moments in Canada during that turbulent decade, along with an NFB film relating to each. (Please note: these are my subjective picks of compelling moments, and obviously I can’t cover everything, so many notable events are not included.)

January 4, 1970: Canada withdraws from IIHF international hockey events

There’d been a long-running dispute between Canada and the International Ice Hockey Federation about the use of amateurs versus professionals in international hockey tournaments, including the Olympics and the World Hockey Championships. In 1970 this came to a head when the IIHF chose Canada to host the World Championships with the promise of allowing some pros to play, but then rescinded that promise. Canada was infuriated, withdrew from hosting the games, and later withdrew from all IIHF events. This rift lasted until 1976, when the IIHF and Hockey Canada finally made up. Below is a great film about the UBC Thunderbirds touring China to play local teams and mentor young Chinese players—showing how truly universal this great game had become in the early 1970s.

Thunderbirds in China, Les Rose, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

October 5, 1970: The start of the October Crisis

I was nine at the time of this tragic moment in the history of our country. All I remember is seeing soldiers in downtown Montreal but not understanding the implications of this, and why my parents looked so worried. Robin Spry’s seminal documentary takes a sobering look at this devastating crisis in great detail. See for yourself what happened that October.

Action: The October Crisis of 1970, Robin Spry, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

January 1, 1972: Cigarette advertising on television and radio ends in Canada

I recently saw an ad from the 1960s where Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble extoled the virtues of Winston cigarettes!! Yes, cigarettes were advertised on television as far back as the 1940s. Here is one of our animated films from 1973, in which the hypocrisy of cigarette advertising is mocked.

King Size, Kaj Pindal, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

October 1973: The Oil Crisis

Canada was one of the countries targeted by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries in an embargo on oil exports because it had supported Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. As a result, the price of oil skyrocketed, eventually leading to a stock market crash. Canada then decided to speed up the development of its own oil industry and put a lot of effort in exploiting the oil sands in Alberta. This film from 1986 tackles the boom-bust economic cycles of Alberta oil during this critical period and beyond, exploring how they affected the people of Canada.

Riding the Tornado, Bob Lower, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

July 17, 1976: Start of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal

I remember the 1976 Olympics like it was yesterday. They were a major source of pride for Montrealers (and all Canadians). To make the Games of the XXI Olympiad, the official film of the ’76 Olympics, 32 separate film crews from the NFB were employed (168 people in all, including three directors) and a total of 200 hours of footage was shot. The editor and his four assistants took five weeks just to view the material, and months to edit it down to the final two-hour-long film. The result was worth it: the film is simply sublime, capturing key events during the competition and many wonderful, candid moments outside of it.

Games of the XXI Olympiad, Jean-Claude Labrecque, Jean Beaudin, Marcel Carrière & Georges Dufaux, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

So there it is: five important moments in the 1970s, as chosen by me.


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  1. Thoughly enjoyed your retrospective.

    — David Liddle,
  2. I just watched the October Crisis 1970 by Robin Spry. It is a very good historical film of the events that transpired in Montreal in 1970. It brought back a lot of memories.

  3. I have just watched Robin Spry’s October Crisis 1970. It is certainly a great historical film of the times in Canada in the 1970.

  4. Watching em all! Thank you!,,,

    — Jenette Hilton,

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