Tag Archives: Canadian Historical Review

Decriminalization According to Whom? Reflections on the Recriminalization of Homosexuality in 1969


A demonstrator is arrested at protests against bathhouse raids in Toronto, June 1981.
The Arquives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives

Written by guest blogger Tom Hooper.

As a historian studying the Toronto bathhouse raids, one of my first research questions was about the criminal code reform in 1969. How could so many people be arrested in the decades that followed the ‘decriminalization’ of homosexuality in Canada? This special edition of the Canadian Historical Review provided an opportunity to explore the 1969 reform in greater detail.

What I found is that the law reform did not match any common definition of the term “decriminalization.” No laws were repealed, gay sex remained a criminal code offense, and the number of people who faced charges increased. This included the innovative use of the bawdy house law against gay bathhouses, but also the continued use of the very provisions that were reformed in 1969. In the weeks following the 1981 bath raids, the gay liberation newsmagazine The Body Politic printed the headline, “recriminalization?”

I resurrect this question in the hopes of revisiting the term “decriminalization.” Any celebration of reform must incorporate the ground-level interactions between LGBTQ2 people and police officers who were tasked with enforcing criminal law. When taking that perspective into account, 1969 did not represent a turning point toward equality and human rights. In addition to the community reaction to the reforms, I re-examined the debates in the House of Commons to search beyond the moral and medical rhetoric. I found members from all major political parties expressing their skepticism that the reform amounted to a decriminalization. Reactions in the media were similarly doubtful that the changes in law would have any practical effect.

Activists in the 1970s and beyond devoted much of their resources toward fighting the continued criminalization of LGBTQ2 communities. This includes the 1971 “We Demand” protest on Parliament Hill, in which activists called for an actual decriminalization with the full repeal of gross indecency and indecent acts. Branding the reforms as “decriminalization” is part of a deeper process of homonationalism, in which the struggles of queer people both before and after 1969 get erased. Progress in both legal and social transformation is not credited to these struggles. Instead, it is a celebration of Pierre Trudeau and the policies of the Liberal Party.

I am honoured to be joined in this special edition by other authors taking a critical perspective of Pierre Trudeau’s “Just Society.” Katrina Ackerman and Shannon Stettner examine the provisions in the criminal code regulating abortion, they argue these changes were so limited that it did not change women’s ability to access these services. Marcel Martel similarly argue that the Official Languages Act was not a turning point. Sarah Nickel examines the 1969 White Paper, which called for the destruction of indigenous sovereignty and treaty rights. The idea that these policies would end marginalization or promote equality represents a setter-oriented framework of justice.

Tom Hooper is a historian of the Toronto bathhouse raids. He is contract faculty in the Law and Society Program at York University. He has appeared before parliamentary committees in both the Senate and House of Commons on matters related to the criminalization of LGBTQ2 people in Canada. His article “Queering ’69: The Recriminalization of Homosexuality in Canada” is available free to read for a limited time on CHR Online.

Miner, Author, Singer, Lone-Actor Terrorist: The Lives and Death of Paul Joseph Chartier

Written by guest blogger Steve Hewitt

Paul Joseph Chartier led a colourful life as a miner, hotelier, private detective, author, and singer in pursuit of a recording career. He ended his life as a lone-actor terrorist. On 18 May 1966, Chartier expelled his last breath on a marble washroom floor outside of the House of Common’s in Ottawa after an explosive device packed with shrapnel he had constructed exploded prematurely before he could toss it into a chamber packed with politicians.

The how and why of Chartier’s ending is what led me to research and write my article that appeared in volume 100, number 1 of the Canadian Historical Review. Although the incident occurred more than a half century ago, it is more pertinent than ever given an increase in acts of extreme violence carried out by men acting on their own as part of a phenomenon known as lone-actor terrorism. The House of Commons’ was the site of one such incident in October 2014 when a gunman, proclaiming allegiance to Islamic State, killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on ceremonial duty at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. He then managed to enter the Centre Block on Parliament Hill with his rifle before he was shot and killed. The reaction struck me as ahistorical, something I wrote about at the time, with media coverage suggesting that Canada had encountered serious terrorism for the first time. Missing, of course, were famous events the Air India bombing of 1985 in which over 300 people, including 268 Canadians, were killed, and the October Crisis that involved the kidnapping and murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. Less surprisingly absent from Canadian historical memory was Paul Joseph Chartier.

Chartier had a failed life and, fittingly, his failure extended into his effort to be a terrorist. In that sense, his story and trajectory resembles many of those who have received media attention in the present as a result of acts of extreme and deadly violence. There is a tendency in media, political, and event academic discourses to portray lone-actor terrorism as a modern phenomenon. This is inaccurate to say the least. Indeed, there is an opportunity for historians unburdened by the restrictions governing primary source material for more recent lone-actor terrorism to provide considerable insight into terrorism in general. The 1300-page police file at the heart of my research about Chartier was released almost with only a handful of redactions. Terrorism studies scholar Marc Sageman has pointed to history specifically as a discipline where innovative work is being done in a field dominated by social scientists.

Another key aspect and one that my future research will examine is the place of masculinity within lone-actor terrorism. As with mass shooters, lone-actor terrorism is almost exclusively carried out by men. In Canada, between 1868 and 2018, I have identified 19 lone-actor terrorist attacks, 18 of which were carried out by men of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and religious beliefs. The common thread across the attacks is the male identity of the perpetrators. And yet, gender is largely ignored in the various discourses around terrorism unless women are involved. This must change because, as demonstrated in recent attacks in Christchurch and San Diego, men carrying out acts of lone-actor terrorism shows no signs of abating.

Photo of Steve Hewitt

Steve Hewitt is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and the American and Canadian Studies Research Centre at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. He has written a number of articles and books related to security and intelligence in the past and present, and in a Canadian, British, and American context, including Spying 101: The RCMP’s Secret Activities at Canadian Universities, 1917-1997 (University of Toronto Press, 2002), The British War on Terror (Continuum, 2008) and, co-authored with Christabelle Sethna, Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2018). Currently, he is working on two related projects: a history of lone-actor terrorism in Canada and a history of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Canada. In particular, he is interested in the intersection of masculinities and extreme violence, particularly among lone-actor terrorists He also has had a lengthy involvement in Canadian studies in the United Kingdom, including as president of the British Association for Canadian Studies from 2011 to 2014. He tweets regularly at @stevehewittuk and on the history of terrorism at @TerrorisingHis1

His latest article in the Canadian Historical Review, ‘Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow’: Lone-Actor Terrorism, Masculinity, and the 1966 Bombing on Parliament Hill in Ottawa,” is free to read for a limited time here.

 

Canada’s Constitutional Legacy: ‘Notwithstanding’ its framers?

Written by guest blogger, Ben Gilding.

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It is timely, even more so than I could have possibly intended, that my article emphasising the role of the British Colonial Office in defining the features of Canadian Confederation should be published in the Canadian Historical Review at a time when the constitution—albeit a newer section of it—is once more making headlines. I am, of course, referring to Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to invoke the ‘notwithstanding’ clause in order to push through his reform of Toronto’s municipal elections. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that Ford’s bill violated freedom of expression under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was entrenched in the constitution during its repatriation in 1982. To combat the Court’s ruling, Ford invoked the ‘notwithstanding’ clause, which allows governments (provincial or federal) to temporarily override rights and freedoms outlined in sections 2 and 7-15 of the Charter. These include freedoms of religion, association, and expression, among others. Since then, it has been revealed that the new Premier-designate of Québec, François Legault is threatening to make use of the same clause to ban the wearing of religious symbols by provincial civil servants, leading the Premier of B.C. to remark on the appearance of a ‘domino effect’ on the use of the controversial clause.[1]

Constitutional debates pitching courts against politicians are, of course, nothing new in Canadian history. This is not to say that the current case involving Ontario’s use of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause is in any way justified by historical constitutional jurisprudence. Rather, it is simply to point out that the courts have decisively intervened at various stages in Canadian history through the interpretation of key clauses of the constitution.[2] This, of course, gave rise to the disputes between originalist and ‘living tree’ interpretations of the Canadian constitution which have oftentimes been falsely perceived as dichotomous. Originalists, in short, attempt to uncover the original meaning of the constitution through the intentions of its framers. The advocates of the ‘living tree’ doctrine, on the other hand, argue that the constitution ought to be seen as an organic structure that is adaptable over time. That these are not mutually exclusive attributes of a written constitution with a formula for amendment is not only self-evident but also admitted by Lord Sankey, the founder of the ‘living tree’ metaphor. In 1931, he declared that, ‘[i]nasmuch as the [British North America] Act embodies a compromise under which the original Provinces agreed to federate…the process of interpretation as the years go on ought not to be allowed to dim or whittle down the provisions of the original contract upon which the federation was founded.’[3]

Ontario’s recent controversial use of the ‘notwithstanding’ clause has prompted a response from several of the framers of that provision (former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, and former Chief Justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry). These three, famously involved in the so-called ‘kitchen accord’, argued that the ‘notwithstanding’ clause “was designed to be invoked in exceptional situations, and only as a last resort after careful consideration.”[4] The assumption behind the release of this joint statement, and much of the commentary in the press and on social media surrounding this controversy suggests that the intentions of the framers matter in constitutional jurisprudence. Not that they ought to rule supreme and fossilize archaic notions into the structure of what would thereby become an increasingly obsolete document; but that they ought to be considered and accounted for in a rational debate concerning the principles that define the national character and the institutions of state.

Upon this assumption—that the intentions of the framers matter in constitutional jurisprudence—my article examines the ideas and motivations of what I term ‘the silent framers’ of Canada’s original constitution. These were the political and permanent staff of the British Colonial Office who, alongside the already-familiar “Fathers of Confederation,” drew up the provisions of the British North America Act that continue to shape politics today. Notwithstanding the Confederation debates, the recent furore surrounding Ontario’s use of the Charter’s overriding clause suggests that Canada’s constitutional legacy is still far from settled, 151 years after its inception.

[1] Richard Zussman, “B.C. premier surprised by ‘domino effect’ of use of notwithstanding clause.” Global News, 5 October 2018, https://globalnews.ca/news/4518008/bc-premier-horgan-notwithstanding-clause/

[2] See John T. Saywell, The Lawmakers: Judicial Power and the Shaping of Canadian Federalism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002).

[3] Privy Council Appeal No. 38 of 1931, p. 7. <http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKPC/1931/1931_93.pdf>

[4] “Chretien, Romanow and McMurtry attack Ford’s use of the notwithstanding clause.” Maclean’s, 14 September 2018, https://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/chretien-romanow-and-mcmurtry-attack-fords-use-of-the-notwithstanding-clause/

Ben Gilding is a PhD candidate at Christ’s College, Cambridge. His research currently focuses on domestic responses to imperial crises in the British Empire in the “age of revolutions” (circa 1765–95). His article “The Silent Framers of British North American Union: The Colonial Office and Canadian Confederation, 1851–67 ” is free to read in the latest issue of the Canadian Historical Review. Read it here!

World Environment Day: June 5th, 2018

University of Toronto Press Journals World Environment Day

Celebrated in over 100 countries since its beginning in 1974, the UN’s World Environment Day (WED) has developed into a global platform for encouraging awareness, action and, of course, learning. This year’s timely theme pledges to show the many ways that we can help beat plastic pollution.

Over the years, journals from across our collection have contributed to this important conversation, publishing articles that tackle everything from fracking to pollution, from sustainability to ecofeminism, to changes in policy. Naturally, we couldn’t resist sharing with you some of our top articles on the environment. This WED, see what our scholars are saying on the subject.

Canadian Historical Review Volume 99 Issue 2 CoverIn the latest issue from the Canadian Historical Review, Mark Kuhlberg and Scott Miller offer insight into pollution in Sudbury, Ontario. Learn how the government granted mining firms practical impunity to pollute the local environment in “‘Protection to the Sulphur-Smoke Tort-feasors’: The Tragedy of Pollution in Sudbury, Ontario, the World’s Nickel Capital, 1884–1927.” http://bit.ly/wed1chr

How are the various ways that people think about water’s relationships to their lands and lives being confounded? Drawing on interviews with 31 concerned residents of Ohio, Anthropologica’s Anna J. Willow discusses the cultural meaning of water in “Troubling Water: Shale Energy and Waterscape Transformation in a North American Extraction Zone.” http://bit.ly/wed4anthro

Journal of Canadian Studies Volume 51 Issue 3How are the longstanding systematic problems with the provision of safe drinking water on Northern Ontario’s reserves being addressed? In “Boil-Water Advisories and Federal (In)Action: The Politics of Potable Water in Pikangikum First Nation,” from the Journal of Canadian Studies, Lori Chambers suggests that the lack of care reflects colonialism, racism, and a fundamental failure of the federal government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities. http://bit.ly/wed6jcs

In “Meat-ing Demand: Is In Vitro Meat a Pragmatic, Problematic, or Paradoxical Solution?” the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law’s Angela Lee takes a critical, ecofeminist perspective on how, in the midst of an ecological crisis, science has been working toward making in vitro meat a commercial reality. http://bit.ly/wed2cjwl

IJFAB Volume 11 Issue 1Kristen Abatsis McHenry takes us to the fracking sites of Pennsylvania in the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, and sheds light on the negative impacts of fracking on women’s health. “Fracking Women: A Feminist Critical Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania” is part of an important discussion about advocacy, environmental politics, and gender. http://bit.ly/wed3ijfab

As oil and gas activity intensifies, so too do its environmental risks and impacts, which in turn signal a need for stronger environmental policy. So how did a five-year research project assess environmental policy trends in Canada’s four leading oil- and gas- producing provinces? Canadian Public Policy’s Angela V. Carter, Gail S. Fraser, and Anna Zalik share their findings in “Environmental Policy Convergence in Canada’s Fossil Fuel Provinces? Regulatory Streamlining, Impediments, and Drift.” http://bit.ly/wed5cpp

For more information about WED and to see how you can join the millions of people who participate each year and help make a difference, please visit: http://worldenvironmentday.global/