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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 …


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    It would have been meaningful had the federal government indeed repealed gross indecency in 1969, he added, noting it may very well have prevented the historic Toronto bathhouse raids from happening by police on Feb. 5, 1981.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

    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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