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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    It would have been meaningful had the federal government indeed repealed gross indecency in 1969, he added, noting it may very well have prevented the historic Toronto bathhouse raids from happening by police on Feb. 5, 1981.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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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    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 LGBTQ 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.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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