New loonie reason to celebrate and educate: central Alberta LGBTQ community

(From left) Danielle Broen, Gabriel Matte and Shannon Humphrey, Central Alberta Pride Society board chair, at a recent rally in central Alberta. Humphrey says the new commemorative loonie is a conversation starter. Photo contributed

The new LGBTQ2 loonie is a conversation starter and a reason to celebrate.

The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a commemorative loonie Tuesday to mark what it called a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people.

The government says the coin symbolizes progress while highlighting the work that still needs to be done to advance equality.

Shannon Humphrey, Central Alberta Pride Society board chair, said the coin is a much-needed conversation starter.

“It’s much like the crosswalk – there’s always a lot of backlash, there’s always a lot of negative comments that surround it, but at the end of day, it sparks a conversation,” Humphrey said, adding that’s an opportunity for education.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau was among a number of dignitaries who gathered in Toronto to unveil the new one-dollar coin that pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada” in 1969.

The coin, which is now in circulation, combines the words “Equality-Egalite” with the work of Vancouver-based artist Joe Average.

Morneau acknowledged the views of those who’ve said the coin’s theme suggests the work to achieve equality is complete.

“They recognize, as we should all recognize, that we are not at the end of this path,” the minister said. “We have much more to do.”

Some historians and advocates attending the coin’s unveiling said the new loonie mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved, and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, said LGTBTQ2 people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the 1969 legislative changes.

“Decriminalization is actually a myth,” Hooper said. “No laws were repealed in 1969. I think that’s a common misconception … Instead, they added a reform. They allowed us to commit these crimes provided we did so under strict circumstances.”

He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing, and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

Humphrey agreed with Morneau, saying there’s still a long way to go, and also noting there was a lot that went down after 1969, leading to inequality for the members of the LGBTQ community.

“There are still conversations that need to happen, and there’s still education, and I think this coin does a really good job of raising awareness of that,” the central Alberta mom said, adding there’s a lot of stigma and hatred that exists even today.

The Blackfalds resident said it’s “awesome” a new loonie commemorates equality – because it’s something a lot of people use in their everyday life.

Maskwacis Two Spirit Group spokesperson Chevi Rabbit believes the coin celebrates the LGBTQ culture and puts the community in the forefront, showing “we’re here and we are not going anywhere.”

She said there’s slow progress that has happened in the last 50 years and “we have come a long way since 1969.”

“It wasn’t an immediate fix, it was a slow progression, and of course a lot of people have been discriminated for change to happen,” the Maskwacis resident said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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