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Thought by some to be a reaction against the conservatism and materialism of the 1950s, the 1960s was a decade of great social and cultural change. Civil Rights activists in the United States fought for equal rights for African Americans, while feminists did the same for women. Anti-war groups demanded the withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. The "Space Race" reached a new milestone in July 1969 when the Americans landed Apollo 11 on the moon. For the first time, the automobile industry offered consumers their choice of cars in different size classes— compact, mid-size and full-size—while Sporty "Pony Cars" like the Mustang and the Camaro made their popular debut. Internationally, the nuclear arms race escalated between the Soviet Union and the United States, as each nation stockpiled their weapons. During this decade, Canada's first nuclear reactor was brought online and the first computer games were introduced to consumers.


The Montcalm, uniquely Canadian, as shown in the 1961 Mercury Meteor Montcalm Brochure


The Mercury Meteor Montcalm was a hit in Canada.

The Mercury Meteor brand was unique to the Canadian market. It was smaller and more economical than most American cars, making it popular with Canadians. Mercury increased the Meteor's appeal in Canada by giving distinctively Canadian names to each model, like 'Niagara,' 'Rideau,' and, in this case, 'Montcalm.'

Photo: 1961
Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd.

Volvo B-18 Canadian, Volvo Canada Ltd., Halifax, Nova Scotia


The Volvo Amazon is re-branded for the Canadian market, and becomes known as a "Volvo Canadian".

The Volvo Canadian was a rebranded version of the Volvo Amazon, which was sold domestically in Sweden. Volvo's first foreign assembly plant was opened in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1963. Cars were sent from Sweden to Halifax in kits, and then assembled for the North American market.

Photo: 1966
Volvo Cars of Canada Corp.

The 1966 Studebaker Commander 230 arrives at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in 1969.


The Studebaker Commander: made in Canada.

In 1963, the company closed its South Bend, Indiana plant and consolidated all their North American operations at their Hamilton, Ontario division. The 66 Studebaker Commander was one of the last models ever produced at the Hamilton plant, which closed in 1966.

Photo: Canada Science and Technology Museum 1969.1030

In The News

Prime Minister Diefenbaker opening the Trans-Canada highway, in Rogers Pass, British Columbia


The Trans Canada Highway, running from Atlantic Canada to the Pacific, officially opens.

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker stamped down the "last" piece of asphalt in the Rogers Pass roadbed, and declared the Trans Canada officially open. However, the highway wasn't actually completed until 1971.

Photo: 1962
Library and Archives Canada/e006580621

Lester Pearson’s preferred choice for a new flag was nicknamed 'the Pearson Pennant.'


Canada gets a new flag.

Canada had been using different flags from its founding through to the first half of the 20th century, most of which reflected Canada's British Heritage. In the 1960s, however, the federal government of Lester B. Pearson decided that Canada needed a new symbol to replace the Red Ensign. The flag question divided the country, but after much acrimonious debate, the government adopted the current red and white flag with the maple leaf on December 15, 1964. On January 28, 1965, the National Flag of Canada was proclaimed by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, to take effect on February 15, 1965.

Illustration: 1964
Artist: Alan Brookman Beddoe

Aerial photograph of the GM Trim Plant, Windsor, Ontario


The Canada-U.S. Automotive Products Agreement, known as the Auto Pact, contributes to a boom in Canada's automotive sector.

Prior to the Auto Pact, the Canada and U.S. auto industries were relatively segregated—parts were generally made in the U.S. and the cars assembled in Canada. After the Pact, which saw the lifting of tariffs between the two countries, vehicles as well as parts travelled freely across the border. More cars were sold in Canada which had been assembled in the U.S. Fewer car models were being produced as a unified continental auto industry emerged. The Auto Pact invigorated the Canadian car industry and the economy as a whole. Jobs were created, wages in the sector increased, and the car and parts industry soon became Canada's most important industry. However, the Canadian auto industry was now firmly in the hands of American corporations, primarily the "Big Three"—Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The Auto Pact was abolished in 2001, after a World Trade Organization ruling declared it illegal. By that time, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, had already been adopted.

Photo: 31 December 1965
The Windsor Star

Alberta Motor Association testing for pollution, Calgary, Alberta.


The United States government passes standards requiring exhaust emission control devices for all new cars in 1968.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, researchers had discovered that significant amounts of air pollution could be attributed to car exhaust. By the 1968 model year, the United States had passed legislation for emission control standards on all new cars. By 1971, Canada had followed suit.

Photo: April 27, 1972
Glenbow Archives, NA-2864-20951

Engineers working in the mission control centre, preparing for the launch of Apollo 11


On July 20th, 1969, Apollo 11 lands the first humans on the moon.

The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal of having Americans reach the moon, before the Soviets, by the end of the 1960s. From 1969 to 1972, there were five more lunar missions under the Apollo program.

Photo: July 20, 1969
National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Office of Public Affairs

Pop Culture

A sample of a temporary SIN card


The social insurance number, or SIN, comes into use.

The social insurance number was originally instituted to help administer the Canada Pension Plan, and the various employment plans in Canada. Increasingly, it became a national identification card, requested by banks, employers, and other institutions in Canada.

Photo: Government of Canada

The mini is 'in' for flight stewardesses, Calgary, Alberta


Fashion designers shock the world with the introduction of the mini-skirt.

The mini-skirt, which would become a symbol of the British Invasion and the Swinging Sixties, made its debut in the fashionable Chelsea district of London, out of Mary Quant's clothing boutique. It took the world by storm, with many other designers creating their own versions of the mini-skirt, and pairing it up with tights, leggings, and boots.

Photo: October 1970
Glenbow Archives, NA-2864-6800

Ralph Nader during an interview


Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile.

Nader criticized automobile companies for designing cars that were unsafe, leading to numerous cases of injury and death. The publicity generated by the book contributed to the creation of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act in the US. It led to similar legislation in other countries, including the 1971 Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Photo: September 10, 1975
Thomas J. O'Halloran, Library of Congress

Aerial view of Montreal's Expo 67 during the last day of the world's fair, October 27th, 1967


Canada welcomes the world to Montreal to celebrate its 100th birthday.

One of the most successful and popular of the world's fairs, Expo 67 showcased cutting-edge design, art, architecture, technology, and culture from around the world. By the exhibition's closing, over 50 million people had visited the fair, at a time when the population of Canada was only 20 million.

Photo: 27 October 1967
BAnQ, Centre d'archives de Montreal
Fonds Armour Landry
Armour Landry, P97, S1, P5783