Guest Blog from Kevin Freedman, Chair of SERC’s Board
A long time ago, in my second year as a SERC board member, we celebrated 75 years as an organization. I took on the role as chair of our ad-hoc 75th anniversary committee and among my responsibilities was to digitize our history. And what a history it was!
We had saved and stored 75 years worth of posters and pamphlets and pens and prophylactics. SERC’s logo, or that of Planned Parenthood Manitoba or the Winnipeg Birth Control Society, was on dozens and dozens of objects and I was tasked with photographing each to keep a record and to show in a slideshow at our AGM and a couple of other events. Going through these artifacts was a real ride through history!
It’s easy to forget that this organization originally formed to fight for basic human rights. At this time, it certainly hadn’t hit me yet. It wasn’t until I saw some old pamphlets about birth control that were, at the time, illegal, that I began to appreciate our past and what my predecessors as leaders in this organization went through. The women and men involved in the first few decades of our existence were facing the genuine threat of imprisonment or worse at the hands of the government. They were taking real risks, risks few Canadian activists these days have to worry about. It was a truly humbling experience.
Seeing all these objects was essentially a three-quarter century trip through the evolution of sexual education and sexual empowerment in Canada. I’ve seen so much progress in my adult life in both of these areas but in the decades prior there was far more change and not something I had really understood. The earliest items in our collection were artifacts of the nation-wide battle to moralize and legalize reproductive choice. Later ones covered the kind of sexuality education that very few at that time ever been exposed to. The most recent were some of the first documents I ever saw using the concepts of consent culture and yes means yes.
That was ten years ago and now we are celebrating another milestone with our 85th anniversary. To have lasted this long and to have evolved our mission so extensively is an astounding feat. 30+ years of fighting for legalized contraception and another 20 fighting for legalized abortion. Now, since the 1980s we have been a national and international leader in the fields of sexuality education and empowerment. SERC has had an impact in its 85 years that is hard to overstate. It has accomplished things, through activism and services, that collectively have benefitted nearly every Manitoban. It’s a special organization to be a part of.