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New commemorative loonie recognizing gay ‘equality’ sparks concern

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OTTAWA — A new commemorative loonie is sparking concern among academics and advocates who fear it could perpetuate myths about Canada’s treatment of lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two spirited persons.

The Royal Canadian Mint will unveil the new one dollar coin in Toronto next week as it joins government departments and agencies to mark “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

A spokeswoman said Tuesday the mint takes great pride in celebrating Canada’s culture, history and values, adding that 50 years ago, Parliament passed an act that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

The mint is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance”, the spokeswoman said.

However, York University historian Tom Hooper said Tuesday that legal reforms unveiled in 1969 did not amount to decriminalization and charges for consensual gay sex among adults went up in the ensuing decades.

“Normally, I would expect decriminalization means a reduction in arrests,” he said. “This is the opposite.”

Hooper, who is part of a network of activists and academics seeking to examine myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform, said he doesn’t have the ability to counter the message of about three million coins expected to be produced.

“Ultimately this coin is stamped in metal and I can’t change that,” he said in an interview.

He said he would prefer to see a celebration of the first national demonstration on gay and lesbian rights held on Parliament Hill in 1971.

“That protest was held on the second anniversary of the 1969 reforms coming into effect,” Hooper said.

“Our community called for an actual decriminalization at that protest. So I would recommend that they would make a coin based on that protest.”

It would have been meaningful had the federal government indeed repealed gross indecency in 1969, he added, noting it may very well have prevented the historic Toronto bathhouse raids from happening by police on Feb. 5, 1981.

Helen Kennedy, executive director for the advocacy group Egale Canada, said the commemorative coin should be taken with the spirit with which it is intended, which is to commemorate a “significant moment” in Canada history.

“I think it is really important of the discourse of Canadian history to mark this occasion and to have these conversations to know that we still have a lot of work to do for full inclusion in Canadian society of marginalized groups,” she said.

There is room in the conversation for academic historians to point out issues, Kennedy added.

“These are important issues and I don’t want to (in) any way undermine the value that they bring to the conversation,” Kennedy said. “I also want to take a moment to commemorate the significance of the moment.”

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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Ethics commissioner ready to testify to committee today: NDP critic

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Mario Dion

OTTAWA — Ethics commissioner Mario Dion could testify to a parliamentary committee as early as Wednesday afternoon about his findings on the prime minister’s breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, the NDP’s Charlie Angus says.

But whether the House of Commons ethics committee moves ahead with the study of Dion’s report rests in the hands of the Liberal MPs who hold the majority of seats.

Dion had said he would make himself available to testify when MPs meet, but Angus said he spoke to the chair of the committee to ensure that would be an option.

Angus said Dion would likely appear by video conference.

“I am hoping, and I expect that, Mr. Dion will be able to provide testimony … and then we can finally get some clear answers,” Angus said.

Dion released a scathing report last week that concluded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau breached a section of the ethics code by improperly pressuring former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould to end criminal proceedings on corruption charges against the Montreal engineering giant.

For his part, Trudeau has said he disagrees with, but accepts, Dion’s findings and was acting to protect Canadian jobs.

In his report, Dion also disclosed that he couldn’t get all the information he required, as potential witnesses and Trudeau’s office claimed cabinet confidence stopped from them from sharing everything they knew.

“This is a very important report, it is a very damning report and it also raises questions about the fundamental powers of the ethics commissioner in terms of the interference and obstruction that was laid in his path by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council,” Angus said.

Trudeau has shown a complete disregard for the rule of law, Angus added, noting that’s what got him into trouble: “He needs to really grow up and assume the role of prime minister here and not just a public figure who thinks he’s impervious to accountability.”

Conservatives and New Democrats pushed for the emergency committee meeting to be held early Wednesday afternoon. Agreeing to invite Dion to appear would mean keeping the SNC-Lavalin controversy in the headlines as MPs gear up for the Oct. 21 election.

On Wednesday morning, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer reiterated his call for the Liberals to put partisan interests ahead of their own and let the study proceed.  

“We will learn today whether or not scandal and corruption is limited to just the Liberal party’s leader in the form of Justin Trudeau, or whether or not this rot has infected the entire Liberal caucus and the entire Liberal party,” Scheer said at an event in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Scheer said that if the study fails to go ahead, he hopes to be able to convince voters to hold Trudeau accountable on voting day this October.

“We cannot have a lawmaker who is a lawbreaker.”

Trudeau has suggested voters want to move on.

A new poll suggests Dion’s report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall, nor has it helped the Conservatives.

The Leger poll suggests the two parties were locked in a dead heat, with the support of 33 per cent of voters, as they jockey for position at the starting gate for the Oct. 21 vote.

Liberal support was unchanged from last month, despite Dion’s report, and Conservative support was down three percentage points from last month, despite the party’s best efforts to re-ignite public outrage over the affair.

The online survey of 1,535 eligible voters was conducted Aug. 16-19 for The Canadian Press and weighted to reflect the makeup of Canada’s population; it cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

It is unhelpful to apply the frame of a political horse race to a question of the rule of law, Angus said.

“I’m less concerned about whether Mr. Trudeau is up one point or down one point,” he said. “My concern is if he interfered with a prosecution and we have to have some manner of accountability, whether it is him or for future prime ministers. Otherwise, we don’t have the rule of law in this country.”

The Canadian Press

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Country music star George Canyon to run for Tories in Nova Scotia

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George Canyon

OTTAWA — One of Nova Scotia’s best-known country music stars is walking on to the political stage.

George Canyon has announced he’s running as a Conservative candidate in the riding of Central Nova in the upcoming federal election.

His name was added to the Tory roster after existing candidate Roger MacKay dropped out this week, for what he said were “personal reasons.”

Canyon has won several Juno and Canadian Country Music Association awards for his work, and currently sings the national anthem at Calgary Flames games.

While his star is sure to add to the Conservative shine for this election, the riding is well acquainted with being a home for political stars.

Brian Mulroney ran from there to get a seat in the House of Commons after becoming leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the 1980s, and for over a decade it was home to Peter MacKay, who served as a cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Green party Leader Elizabeth May also attempted a run for the seat in 2008, but lost to MacKay.

He held the riding until stepping down ahead of the 2015 election, and the seat fell into the hands of Liberals as part of a red sweep of the Atlantic provinces.

But the Tories count Central Nova among the seats they intend to recapture this fall, thanks in part to what they say are candidates with strong ties to the area, including three local members of the Nova Scotia legislature.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has made multiple stops in the Atlantic provinces already this summer, and for his part, Canyon said he’s eager to get going.

“Over the next nine weeks, I’m going to wear the soles out of my boots as I work hard to show people here the type of representative and advocate I will be for them.”

The federal election takes place on Oct. 21.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

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