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Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair

Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair

| 58 min

Paul Cowan's film captures the spirit of the legal battle over abortion waged by Dr. Henry Morgentaler in Quebec and in federal courts between 1970 and 1976. Using a combination of newsreel footage, interviews and re-enactments, this docudrama unravels the complexities of the case that began as a challenge to Canada's abortion laws and turned into a precedent-setting civil rights case.

This film deals with mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised

  • director
    Paul Cowan
  • editing
    Paul Cowan
  • producer
    Adam Symansky
    Jefferson Lewis
    Paul Cowan
  • executive producer
    Robert Verrall
    Andy Thomson
  • script
    Jefferson Lewis
  • cinematography
    Paul Cowan
    Mike Mahoney
  • sound
    Jacques Drouin
  • sound editing
    Bernard Bordeleau
  • sound mixing
    Jean-Pierre Joutel
    Adrian Croll
  • narrator
    William Hunt
  • music
    Alex Pauk
    Alexina Louie
  • cast
    Gabriel Gascon
    Henry Morgentaler
    Mike Morgentaler
    Michael Rudder
    Lisa Schwartz
    Claude-Armand Sheppard
    Jacques Thisdale
    Gwen Tolbart


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Ages 15 to 17

Study Guide - Guide 1

Civics/Citizenship - Human Rights
History and Citizenship Education - Civil Rights and Freedoms
Social Studies - Canadian Politics and Government

In a mock trial, split the class in half and debate a pro-life and a pro-choice standpoint. Their debate should include reasons for being pro or against abortion. In your debate, include whether you think the government has any say about abortions. Students can write an essay from the point of view of Henry Morgentaler defending his position. In a personal response, have students reflect on the following question: Would you say that Henry Morgantaler is the epitome of courage?

Democracy on Trial: The Morgentaler Affair
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