A Minute Spent Honouring LGBTQ Heroes Now Will Help Save The Future

Lifestyle

I’m sure you’ve seen them: Heritage Minutes — those dramatized, 60-second TV spots and cinema shorts that celebrate iconic events, stories and people from Canadian history?

Well on June 13 Historica Canada, the organization responsible for creating this growing collection of national gems, marks its own historic milestone by releasing its first-ever Heritage Minute dealing with Canadian LGBTQI2S history.

Joining such notable historical figures as Sir John A. MacDonald, Viola Desmond, Louis Riel, Laura Secord, Agnes Macphail, Richard Pierpoint and Emily Carr is James Egan, Canada’s pioneer gay activist.

From 1949 to 1964 Egan wrote a deluge of letters and articles to the Toronto press, challenging the lurid, stereotyped depictions of homosexuals in the tabloids and arguing for the repeal of laws which criminalized same-sex relationships. In doing so, Egan became the first person in Canada to speak out publicly for gay rights.

In the summer of 1948, at the beverage room of Toronto’s Savarin Hotel, Egan met and fell in love with the young man who became his life partner: Jack Nesbit. However, in post-war Canada (until 1969) homosexuality between consenting adults was illegal under the Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment. Jack’s fear about Jim’s increasingly public profile as a gay spokesperson finally prompted Egan to give up the chase and move with Jack (and their three Chihuahuas) to Vancouver Island in 1964. They focused on their business, preserving and selling biological marine specimens, and Jim found new political outlets as an environmental activist and elected politician for the Regional District of Comox-Strathcona.

But Egan wasn’t finished with gay activism. Upon retirement he decided to wage one last battle for the LGBTQ community, this time with Jack standing proudly by his side. Both men were convinced that politicians would never have the gumption to recognize gay rights, so they decided to seek equality through the courts.

In 1987, Jim applied for a spousal pension benefit for Jack that was routinely granted to heterosexual couples. As expected, the federal government denied them the allowance on the basis that Jack did not meet the definition of “spouse” under the law: namely, “a member of the opposite sex.” Thus began an eight-year Charter of Rights challenge that would end at the Supreme Court. Although Egan and Nesbit did not win the pension benefit, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that sexual orientation was protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a landmark victory in the fight for …read more

Source:: The Huffington Post – Canada Travel

      

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