Sunday, October 05, 2014

Canadian Senator's son creates online LGBTQ support group

Robbie Watt
On February 10, 2014 controversy arose in Nunavut when the rainbow flag was raised outside Iqaluit city hall. City councillor Simon Nattaq publicly criticized the event and a few weeks later Cathy Towtongie, president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., voiced her support of Nattaq. Shortly thereafter, Robert "Robbie" Watt, who is the openly gay son of Canadian Senator Charlie Watt, stepped up to offer his support and formed the Facebook page for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in the Arctic. Below are excerpts from two articles detailing Watt's journey towards advocacy for the LGBTQ community in Northern Canada.

Nunatsiaqonline reports:
[Nunavut, Canada] For Robbie Watt, March 6 was a turning point. That’s the day the 46-year-old Inuk — who first came out as a homosexual almost 20 years ago — feels like he came out once again. It’s time, he said, to change negative attitudes about homosexuality in many Inuit communities. Watt was reacting to comments made earlier this week by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Cathy Towtongie, when she “commended” an Iqaluit city councillor for speaking out against the raising of a rainbow flag last month. As criticism of her comments mounted, Towtongie refused to apologize, saying instead that Nunavummiut need to “openly discuss the issue of sexual orientation.” That’s what Watt has already started doing. By the end of the day, he had created a Facebook page for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community in the Arctic, which quickly amassed more than 250 followers. “If they want to have a debate, I’m ready,” Watt said. “I’m ready to fight to make sure for once and for all that we belong to this society. We’re part of this human fabric.” The timing was right, he added, in a region where there are really no services for gay and lesbian Inuit. “We’re losing a lot of good people to this ignorance,” Watt said. “There are many individuals who have ended their lives because they felt different, they felt ashamed, they had no support. “As Inuit say — taima; enough is enough.” READ MORE

Robbie Watt shares how emotional it was for him to speak to his father (Senator Charlie Watt) before he took a public stance for LGBTQ rights.

Nunasiaqonline reports:
[Nunavut, Canada ] Robbie Watt, a Nunavik Inuk now living in Montreal, says ultimately it doesn’t matter whether homosexuality is traditional or why it exists at all. There are gay people in all countries, from all cultures, and they deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else, he says. Watt launched the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer Community in the Arctic Facebook page March 6, the day Towtongie’s comments were made public. Though his father, Senator Charlie Watt, knew he was gay, Robbie said he’d never made his sexual orientation public out of respect for his father’s political position. When Robbie agreed to speak to media about his views, he took a deep breath and called his dad to warn him. The senator told him he loved him and that he respected him for standing up for what he believed. “I hung up the phone and I started to cry,” Robbie said. “For my dad to say that, it meant so much to me. I’m 46 years old and I feel like a little kid all over again.” READ MORE

Monday, September 29, 2014

January Marie Lapuz's killer sentenced to 8-years /// PLUS more LGBTQ news

[Nunavut, Canada] Years from now, when the children of homosexual Inuit are old enough to understand, they’ll learn how Nunavut joined the global gay rights movement on a bitter cold, blue-sky morning, Feb. 10, 2014, when a man in a hoodie hoisted a rainbow flag on a pole outside Iqaluit city hall. As is often the case with memorable things in retrospect, it was just a small, spontaneous event, organized by a handful of people with modest intentions — a show of support for gay athletes at the Sochi Olympics. And even as the lesbian, gay, transgendered and queer community of Iqaluit gears up for its big Pride event Sept. 27 at the Francophone Centre, they could never have predicted what would come from that simple act. It’s the first Iqaluit Pride event in several years, following a series of annual Pride picnics held at Sylvia Grinnell Park from 2000 to 2006. The February flag-raising spawned a public debate over city protocol and due process, which quickly transformed into a series of broader questions over homosexuality in the North which had perhaps been brewing for a while.

[British Columbia] The governing members of the Law Society of British Columbia have decided to hold a binding referendum to determine the future of a faith-based law school at Trinity Western University. The board members, who are known as benchers, voted on Friday morning to hold the referendum at the earliest possible date, with the results to be released by the end of October. The move comes after members of the society triggered a non-binding vote earlier this year that effectively overturned the benchers' April decision to accredit the new law school at the Fraser Valley university. The law school, which is due to open in 2016, has come under fire because of the Christian covenant TWU students must sign. The covenant states that sexual relations are to be confined within the bounds of a marriage between a man and a woman. Critics say that discriminates against anyone involved in an LGBTQ relationship. READ MORE

[United Kingdom] Queen Elizabeth II this week granted a Royal pardon for internationally acclaimed British codebreaker and computer scientist Alan Turing, who took his own life in 1954 after being convicted two years earlier of having consensual sex with a 19-year-old male. The pardon came more than a decade after gay activists and straight allies lobbied the British government for a posthumous pardon for Turing, saying his conviction on a charge of “gross indecency” was an injustice even though gay sex was considered a crime at the time under British law. “Alan Turing was a remarkable man who played a key role in saving this country in World War II by cracking the German Enigma code,” The Telegraph newspaper quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying. “His action saved countless lives. He also left a remarkable national legacy through his substantial scientific achievements, often being referred to the as father of modern computing,” the newspaper quoted Cameron a saying. Cameron was referring to Turning’s groundbreaking work for one of Britain’s intelligence agencies during World War II in which he applied his own research on information processing – considered a forerunner to modern computer science — to devise a means of breaking the code used by German submarines to attack and sink British ships. Turning, who continued his research after the war, is widely considered by computer experts to have developed the foundation for high tech devices such as smart phones. READ MORE

[New Westminster, B.C.] Charles Jameson (Jamie) Neel, 22, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in June and was sentenced in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster to eight years in prison. According to an agreed statement of facts, Neel contacted 26-year-old January Marie Lapuz, a transgender woman who worked in the sex trade, by text on Sept. 29, 2012 to arrange an exchange of sex for money. Neel did not know Lapuz before that night, but knew she was transgender. Lapuz gave Neel her address and he left the Vancouver home he shared with his brother and twin sister, arriving at Lapuz’s apartment in New Westminster around 9:45 p.m. Before they had sex, Neel and Lapuz got into an argument about the price Lapuz would be paid for the sexual encounter. Antonuk stressed in his submissions that Lapuz’s death resulted from an argument and she was not killed because she was transgender. “This is not a hate crime,” he said. READ MORE

Read our previous January Marie Lapuz posts here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Jim Deva remembered at memorial as passionate free speech advocate

Jim Deva
[Vancouver, B.C.] St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church was packed Saturday as more than a thousand people from the community to whom he gave so much, turned out to honour Little Sister's Bookstore owner Jim Deva. "Deva's legacy really can't be overstated," said longtime friend and lawyer barbara findlay (who spells her name without capital letters). "He established a community centre as well as a bookstore and this has been a place that everybody has looked to for information, for support, and for advice. He and the bookstore stood up for freedom of speech all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada twice." It was outrage against discrimination that drove Jim Deva, a former school teacher turned advocate. In the late 1980s, Deva took the federal government to court when it stopped gay and lesbian books from crossing the border into Canada. His Little Sister's Bookstore won that censorship battle, but while it may have been his most noteworthy cause, it was just one of many. He was 64 years old. He leaves behind his partner Bruce and the thousands of friends he made over his lifetime. READ MORE

Vancouver's LGBTQ community mourns the sudden death of Jim Deva

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

First gay couple to try to be legally married in Canada (in 1974!) featured in Canadian Musuem For Human Rights /// PLUS more LGBTQ news

[Winnipeg, Manitoba] Chris Vogel and Richard North are the first gay couple to try and legally marry in Canada. Their marriage certificate, granted by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg in 1974, was one of the first same-sex marriage certificates issued in Canada. However, their union was not recognized by the province. They launched a decades-long legal battle to challenge marriage laws and fight for same-sex spousal benefits. North said he hopes others won't have to go through the struggle they've endured. "Our marriage certificate, hopefully, is a beacon of hope. The museum will be part of the process of changing the way the world sees homosexuality," he said.

Excerpt From CBC's Digital Archives 1974 Radio Program, "As It Happens":
Gay Winnipeg Couple Marries
[Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada] It was a time of protests, legal fights and backlash. With a growing sense of solidarity, gays and lesbians became more visible in Canadian society in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Homosexuality gradually became more accepted as more Canadians came out of the closet to demand equality under the law. Chris Vogel and Richard North, a gay Winnipeg couple in their 20s, were stymied in their efforts to obtain a marriage licence from the province. That didn't stop them, though -- they found a sympathetic Unitarian-Universalist minister to perform their marriage ceremony. Now, as they explain to Barbara Frum of As It Happens, they're in a struggle with the provincial government to have the union recognized. 

[Vancouver, B.C.] This isn’t Jane Bouey’s first time around the civic block. Bouey has already served two terms as a trustee on the Vancouver School Board, during which she chaired the board’s education and student-service committee, served on its Pride and special education committees, and held the position of vice-chair during her second term, from 2008 to 2011. Now she is running alongside Gwen Giesbrecht with the Public Education Project, a new party focused entirely on public education. Bouey helped develop the Vancouver School Board’s policy on sexual orientation and gender identity in 2004, which was recently amended to be more trans-inclusive. It was during the intense debates that surrounded these amendments that she realized her work isn’t finished yet. Bouey hopes to secure more resources to help ensure the policy’s amendments are properly implemented. While the policy calls for all staff in the district to receive training on how to handle homophobia and transphobia in the classroom, limited funding means that at most, staff are being offered optional workshops. Fighting to make sure that scarce resources go toward supporting the most vulnerable students is a priority for Bouey, who is queer. READ MORE

[Montreal, Quebec] Facebook has been deleting the profiles of drag queens and other performers who use stage names because they do not comply with the social networking site’s requirement that users go by their “real names” on the site. Facebook policy states the “name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” After San Francisco drag-queen activists and politician / attorney David Campos met with Facebook on Sept 17, the social-media giant reinstated the deleted pages and stated all drag queens had two weeks to drop their “fake” Facebook names. If they do not comply, Facebook says their accounts will be deleted. READ MORE

[Ottawa, Canada] One MP’s latest attempt to add hate-crime protection for transgender people to the Criminal Code has failed, with the Speaker of the House of Commons dismissing a bid to force a vote by all MPs on the matter because it would repeat a vote that has already taken place. The ruling from Speaker Andrew Scheer on Monday came after a request from NDP MP Randall Garrison to, in essence, allow a re-vote on whether “gender identity” should be added to the list of “identifiable groups” afforded extra protection under hate crime provisions in the Criminal Code, a list being expanded by the government’s anti-cyberbullying bill, C-13. The House of Commons committee that considered C-13 earlier this year rejected adding protection based on gender, though the bill is already adding hate crime protections based on national origin, age, sex, mental disability and physical disability. Mr. Garrison’s argument to the Speaker was that the committee acted against the will of Parliament. MPs already voted to add gender as a protected identifiable group when the House passed Bill C-279, Mr. Garrison’s private member’s bill. That bill, however, has languished in the Senate since March, 2013. The issue boiled over again three months ago, when C-13 – a government-backed bill – was under committee review. Conservative MPs held five of nine committee seats, and voted together to reject a motion adding gender identity as a protected identifiable group. They won that vote 5-4. READ MORE