A new Heritage Minute that depicts the life of LGBTQ2 activist Jim Egan and his fight for spousal rights was unveiled Tuesday night at the Glad Day Bookshop in Toronto.
Many Canadians grew up watching Historica Canada’s iconic one-minute videos illustrating important moments in Canadian history.
And while some have come to be regarded as nostalgic (like the video on the history of basketball or the origin of the word Canada), videos in recent years have been more focused on illustrating some of the less proud moments of Canada’s history, including moments of racism and Indigenous residential schools.
The video of Egan marks the first Heritage Minute centred around the LGBTQ2 community in Canada, and highlights an important moment in the country’s history.
Jim Egan spent decades fighting homophobia in the media and the courts – learn more about his story and what he did for the LGBTQ2 community in @HistoricaCanada’s new #HeritageMinute 🏳️🌈: pic.twitter.com/0mTFFwDstW— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 13, 2018
"Jim Egan changed the way Canadians define equality and human rights, at a time when it was uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous for LGBTQ2 people to step forward," Anthony Wilson-Smith, president and CEO of Historica Canada, told CBC. "We're proud to tell his story, which is an important one not only for those affected, but for all Canadians who believe in equal rights."
In 1949, Egan began sending letters to tabloids to counter misconceptions about homosexuality in the press.
Years later, Egan and his partner, Jack Nesbit, sued Ottawa for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act.
“Nine homes, seven dogs, 47 years together, and still not spouses under the law,” the video recalls.
The Supreme Court ruled against them, denying them spousal rights, but their case did lead to a monumental win for the LGBTQ2 community.
Because of their case, the Supreme Court ended up ruling to protect sexual orientation under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1995.
"If it wasn't for Jim, the Charter wouldn't have happened as soon as it did," Andrea Houston, a consultant on the project and queer media studies teacher at Ryerson University, told HuffPost Canada. "What he did was critical not just for queer history, but Canadian history."
June is Pride Month in many cities around the world, as people of all sexualities and gender identities come together to celebrate the LGBTQ2 community and fight for equality.
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