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Commemorative loonie marking progress for LGBTQ2 people unveiled in Toronto

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TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a commemorative loonie Tuesday to mark what it called a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people, with the government saying the coin symbolized progress w…


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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a commemorative loonie Tuesday to mark what it called a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people, with the government saying the coin symbolized progress while highlighting the work that still needs to be done to advance equality.

    Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was amongst a number of dignitaries who gathered in Toronto to unveil the new one-dollar coin that pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada” in 1969.

    The coin, which is now in circulation, combines the words “Equality-Egalite” with the work of Vancouver-based artist Joe Average.

    “For too long, people didn’t listen. They didn’t extend compassion or empathy or understanding,” Morneau said. “Because of that, years ago, people made it a crime to love in Canada. We made being yourself a punishable offence.”

    Morneau also acknowledged the views of those who’ve said the coin’s theme suggests the work to achieve equality is complete.

    “They recognize, as we should all recognize, that we are not at the end of this path,” he said. “We have much more to do.” 

    Some historians and advocates attending the coin’s unveiling said the new loonie mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, said LGTBTQ2 people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the 1969 legislative changes.

    “Decriminalization is actually a myth,” he said. “No laws were repelled in 1969. I think that’s a common misconception … Instead, they added a reform. They allowed us to commit these crimes provided we did so under strict circumstances.”

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ2 history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    Rev. Brent Hawkes, a pastor and gay rights activist who spoke at the coin unveiling, said while the legal changes in 1969 were not perfect, they are worthy of celebration.

    “When you have laws hanging over your head that say when you love someone very, very much and you practice consensual sex with that other adult person you could be thrown in jail, that is significant,” he said. 

    “In 1969, the government passed a law to end that piece of the terror … And while it’s not perfect, we should not diminish the significance of that moment.”

    Mint president Marie Lemay said coins made by the agency end up in the pockets and purses of Canadians across the country and contribute to ongoing discussions about the country’s identity.

    The new coin unveiled today is “inspirational”, she said.

    “It’s our hope that this coin will spark conversation,” she said. “I see this morning it already has and spurred reflection on 50 years of progress, while acknowledging … that the journey towards full equality for Canadians of all genders, identities, and sexual orientations was hard fought and is not yet over.”

    Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press



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    National

    Canadian Press NewsAlert: Canadian citizen killed in Honduras plane crash

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    TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.
    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.
    Stefano Maron says consular offic…


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  • TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Global Affairs is confirming that a Canadian citizen has been killed in a plane crash in Honduras.

    A spokesperson for the department says the crash happened in the Roatan Islands area.

    Stefano Maron says consular officials in the capital, Tegucigalpa, are in contact with local authorities and providing consular assistance to the victim’s family.

    Local media report that all five people who died in yesterday’s crash were foreigners.

    More coming.

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    ‘Rope-a-dope’: Environmentalists say Alberta war room threat won’t distract them

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    EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.
    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people …


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  • EDMONTON — Environmental groups targeted by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney are shrugging off the new government’s promised $30-million “war room” to fight criticisms of the province’s energy industry.

    “The war room makes for good theatre, but the people who follow this closely are going to look at this as amateur hour,” said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace.

    “Chasing environmentalists might play well politically, but it’s not actually relevant to the discussion that Alberta and Canada need to be having,” added Simon Dyer of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute.

    Both groups have been singled out by Kenney as examples of ones distorting the truth about the impact of the oilsands. The premier has said government staff will be tasked with responding quickly to what he calls myths and lies.

    Kenney has also promised to fund lawsuits against offending environmentalists and to call a public inquiry into the role of money from U.S. foundations.

    “Stay tuned,” Energy Minister Sonya Savage said Tuesday. “We’ll have something to talk about next week.”

    Environmental groups have already been discussing informally what the United Conservative government might have in mind and how they should react.

    “We’ve been contacted,” said Devon Page of Ecojustice, an environmental law firm. “We’ve been saying to the groups, ‘We’re here. We’ll respond and represent you as we have in the past.’

    “What we’re trying hard not to do is to do what I think the Kenney government wants, which is to get distracted.”

    Dyer and Stewart said their groups are about 85 per cent funded by Canadians. The Pembina Institute was founded in Drayton Valley, Alta., and its headquarters remain in Calgary.

    Both called the war room political posturing aimed at the party’s base.

    “A lot of the rhetoric around our work and our contribution to Alberta has been based on complete misinformation,” said Dyer, who pointed out Pembina has worked with virtually every major energy company in the province.

    Stewart called the threats a rerun of the 2012 campaign against environmental groups fuelled by the right-wing The Rebel media group and led by Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives.

    “We learned to play rope-a-dope,” said Stewart. “Stephen Harper was our best recruiter.

    “We had people contacting us saying, ‘How do I lie down in front of a bulldozer?’ We don’t usually get a lot of those calls but we were getting a lot of those calls.”

    Each group is confident in the accuracy of the facts it cites. Dyer said Pembina research has been used by investors, academics and governments.

    Stewart said the issue isn’t facts, but how they are understood. 

    “Often what it is is a disagreement over which fact is important. Industry will say, ‘We’re reducing emissions per barrel.’ We’ll say, ‘Emissions are going up.’ Both statements are true and it depends which you think is more important.”

    Cara Zwibel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said the Kenney government must tread carefully. It’s OK to defend your position, but not to threaten, she said.

    “If we’re talking about initiating lawsuits against individuals or organizations on the basis of speaking out on issues of public importance, then that raises serious problems,” she said. “Then we have a much more obvious impact and potential violation on freedom of expression.”

    The province could possibly expose itself to legal action if its statements harm a group or individual — say, by putting them at the centre of a Twitter firestorm, said an Edmonton lawyer.

    “There’s certainly some kind of moral responsibility in terms of understanding that kind of highly charged rhetoric,” said Sean Ward, who practises media law. “You have to understand the consequences that are likely to follow.”

    Ward said any cases the government funds would also be tough to win. 

    “There are a lot of available defences. It’s difficult to see that this sort of general debate they’re going to be able to shut down with defamation law.”

    Environmentalists say their response will be to avoid distraction and carry on.

    “The vast majority active in this place don’t want to go back to a high conflict, polarizing environment,” Dyer said. “We’re not interested in polarizing this debate.”

    Bob Weber, The Canadian Press




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