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"A National Voice of Parents in Education"

For the week of Monday March 12, 2007

On March 17, 1960, the largest meeting of the Canadian Home and School and Parent-Teacher Federation to date was held at Massey Hall in Toronto. This federation was formed nearly 73 years earlier to unite parents and teachers of school-aged children in their concerns for the well-being of Canada’s youth.

Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, circa 1914
Mabel and Alexander Graham Bell, circa 1914
© Library and Archives Canada / PA-089114
Mabel Bell, the wife of Alexander Graham Bell, was among the original proponents of parents’ associations in Canada. In Baddeck, Nova Scotia, where they lived, Mabel advocated for the formalization of parents’ associations, which was achieved on December 18, 1895, when Canada’s first Parents’ Association was founded.

Within a decade of the founding of Canada’s first Parents’ Association, similar organizations appeared in Ontario. These were united by the early 1920s as the Ontario Federation of Home and School Associations to organize their individual efforts. British Columbia soon followed suit, founding its own federation in 1922. Other provinces, including Nova Scotia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Quebec established their own provincial federations between 1936 and 1944. To further co-ordinate their efforts, the Canadian National Federation of Home and School was founded on August 11, 1927. The original members were the provincial federations of British Columbia and Ontario, with the other provinces, many of whom supported the original founding, joining individually thereafter.

The size and popularity of this federation was best displayed at the largest meeting of its members to date, held at Massey Hall in 1960. This event, hosted by Arnold Edinborough, editor of Saturday Night Magazine, provided the federation with the opportunity to speak to the press on a myriad of issues about which they were concerned, including religious education, sex education and drivers education.

Massey Hall
© Parks Canada / J. Butterill / 1994
With the establishment of a national pressure group, the associations now had the power to lobby government for legislative reform, allowing them to truly become “a national voice of parents in education.” Prior to this, the main focus of the organizations was the individual schools they represented. Among the issues they tackled were smoking among youth, media awareness, child literacy, and infant health. As a result of this activism, they achieved greater standardization of education across Canada, an increase in educational literature and television available for children, and obtained significant progress in the battle against alcohol consumption, cigarette and drug use among youths.

For its pioneering efforts, the formation and development of the Canadian Home and School Federation was designated a National Historic Event in 2003.

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