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    It would have been meaningful had the federal government indeed repealed gross indecency in 1969, he added, noting it may very well have prevented the historic Toronto bathhouse raids from happening by police on Feb. 5, 1981.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

    Canada-China relations hit ‘rock bottom’ and at ‘freezing point’: Chinese envoy

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  • OTTAWA — China’s ambassador to Canada says the bilateral relationship is now at “rock bottom” compared to any time since diplomatic ties were first established decades ago.

    In prepared text for a speech Thursday, Lu Shaye said he’s saddened Canada-China relations are at what he called a “freezing point.”

    Lu’s remarks come at a time of heightened tensions following the December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on an extradition request by the United States.

    The Huawei executive’s arrest has enraged China, which has since detained two Canadians on allegations of endangering Chinese national security, sentenced two Canadians to death for drug-related convictions and blocked key agricultural shipments.

    Lu did not mention Meng’s arrest — but he said the China-Canada relationship is now facing serious difficulties.

    He said China has long valued its relationship with Canada, particularly since it was one of the first Western countries to establish diplomatic ties with the Asian country.

    “For clear reasons, the current China-Canada relations are facing serious difficulties and are situated at the rock bottom since the two countries have established diplomatic relations,” said a copy of Lu’s speech, which was posted on the Chinese Embassy’s website.

    “It saddens us that the current China-Canada relations are ‘at a freezing point’ and face huge difficulties. The knots shall be untied by those who got them tied.”

    He continued by urging Canada to view China’s development in a “fair and objective” manner and to respect its concerns. Lu also warned Canada to “stop the moves that undermine the interests of China.”

    In recent months, Beijing’s envoy has used strong words when talking about the relationship. In January, he told Canadian journalists that Meng’s arrest was the “backstabbing” of a friend and said it was evidence of white supremacism.

    Lu also warned of repercussions if the federal government bars Huawei from selling equipment to build a Canadian 5G wireless network.

    He made the remarks in Toronto at an event hosted by the Globe and Mail. The document said former prime minister Jean Chretien was in attendance as was Darryl White, chief executive of BMO.

    The Canadian Press

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    Environment

    Keep guard up against hurricanes in 2019, as risk remains potent: forecaster

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  • HALIFAX — It has been years since a major tropical storm wreaked havoc in Canada, but the Canadian Hurricane Centre is warning against complacency.

    The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane outlook Thursday, predicting nine to 15 named storms this season, with four to eight becoming hurricanes and two to four being major hurricanes.

    Bob Robichaud of the Canadian centre noted that’s similar to last year’s hurricane season, when only two storms hit Canada, including post-tropical storm Chris, which made landfall in Newfoundland in July 2018.

    However, Robichaud warns that some Atlantic Canadians may be forgetting storms like post-tropical storm Arthur, which snapped trees and caused massive power outages in 2014, and hurricane Juan’s widespread wrath in 2003.

    And he reminded journalists attending a briefing in Halifax about hurricane Michael, which flattened parts of the Florida panhandle last October.

    The Halifax-based centre has created a fresh smart phone app, and recommends people begin tracking storms as soon as they start and then monitor for shifts in direction and intensity.

    “What we advocate is for people to really stay in tune with weather information because the forecast can change as the storms are approaching,” Robichaud said.

    Robichaud says studies show that complacency levels rise about seven years after a storm like hurricane Juan, and that as a result people do less to prepare.

    “People tend not to take any preparedness action if they haven’t had any kind of hurricane in recent years,” said Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist.

    “For us it’s been five years since any major impactful storm … so it’s even more important to take the necessary precautions to get ready.”

    The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo has published a simple guide for Canadians on basic measures to take to prepare in particular for flood risk from extreme weather.

    The centre has repeatedly pointed out that without basic measures, basement flooding can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage during hurricanes.

    Its publications include a Home Flood Protection Program that begin with such simple steps as testing sump pumps, cleaning out eaves troughs and maintaining backwater valves.

    More advanced measures include removing obstructions from basement drains and creating grading to move water away from homes.

    The hurricane season runs from June 1 to early November.

    Robichaud said hurricanes tend to “feed on” warmer waters, and as result the centre is closely monitoring those trends.

    The meteorologist said as summer progresses it’s projected the water will warm in the eastern Atlantic and become warmer than average.

    In addition, Robichaud said the Atlantic Ocean continues to be in an overall period of high hurricane activity that hasn’t yet come to the end of a cycle.

    — Follow (at)mtuttoncporg on Twitter.

    Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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