Standing up for rights

Photo: Winnipeg skyline at sunset. Source: Winnipeg Foundation files.

The decade from 1980 to 1990 did not begin auspiciously. Sadly, 1980 was the year that Terry Fox had to abandon his Marathon of Hope in Thunder Bay because of his deteriorating health. He had raised thousands of dollars and brought hope to vast numbers suffering from cancer and many other maladies. Fox is still remembered, and his accomplishment is commemorated every year in local events all over the country raising money for medical research.

Fellow athlete Rick Hansen carried on with Fox’s spirit from 1985 to 1987 when he travelled around the world in a wheelchair. His “Man in Motion” trip raised over $26 million to be used in spinal cord research. Hansen and Fox knew each other, and Fox played with Hansen’s wheelchair basketball team.

The USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1980. Many nations including Canada boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow to show their opposition to the invasion.

In 1980 Parliament passed the National Anthem Act, making O Canada our official national song. At the July 1 signing of the legislation, Canada Day crowds across the country sang the anthem. The Constitution Act was enacted in 1982, ending the British North America Act and giving Canada independence from the Sovereign.

Jeanne Sauve became the first woman speaker of the House of Commons in 1980. In 1982 Bertha Wilson was the first female member of the Supreme Court of Canada. The next year Liberal MP Sheila Copps protested that the practice of some of her colleagues of calling her “baby” in the House of Commons was unparliamentary. At the end of the decade Audrey McLaughlin became the leader of the New Democratic Party, Canada’s first female party leader.

In the world of entertainment, a low budget Canadian film, Porky’s, set in the 1950s, became a surprise smash hit and spawned two sequels. In 1981, Canada was introduced to Bob and Doug McKenzie and “take off eh” and “g’day hosers,” along with many other McKenzie-isms, became part of our national dialect. In 1983, the Canadian rock band Rush was the first rock group to perform at Radio City Music Hall. The Canadian film dealing with climate change, If You Love This Planet, won an Oscar for the best documentary in 1983; the film was classified as “political propaganda” by the U.S. Justice Department.

The 1980s was the decade when the world was introduced to AIDS. The epidemic motivated the gay community to become more “out and proud’ and in 1988 Svend Robinson became the first Canadian MP to state he was gay. Read more – Building an equitable society for all.

In Winnipeg, The Forks redevelopment, including the marketplace, river walk, amphitheatre, boat dock, and interpretive area, opened on Oct. 4, 1989. It continues to be one of the most vibrant locations in our city.

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