On March 14, 2015, NSRAP Hosted "Four Decades Of Activism" event
(direct transcribed, not spell checked etc.)
Robin: "I was a member of CHAN - the Community Homophile Association of Newfoundland"
"Media accountability for the public"
I was involved with [[LGRNS?|Lesbian & Gay Rights Nova Scotia]] & the campaign to get sexual orientation int he NS Human Rights Act. The campaign was intended to change legislation, so all its tactics were lobbying, directed at the province. We used a huge variety of tactics. LGRNS never had more than 25 people on the membership list, never more than 10 at a meeting -- it was an organization to *coordinate* action, not to *do* action. I went through our Process Book and made a list of the tactics: media, press releases, press conferences, two major demonstrations in 1989 and 1990. The latter was a takeoff of the television game Jeopardy. We did speeches, presentations and workshops at every conference and organization and platform we could get.
We did a huge letter & postcard campaign. we did briefs; we appeared at every legislative committee. we set in the gallery over the legislature -ns and stared at them, any time someone came up. one of our memebers, KevinCrombie, was in the press gallery. every morning he get the agenda for the debates, and would dtrigger the phone tree. they mstu have wondered how they knew we should be there.
DId items with the hns human rights commission, we wrote pieces in the paper.
THere wasn't hysteria about seucirty the. you could go into the lobby of the legislature and give a page a "green note"a and the member would come out to talk to you. We talked to every member of the government except the premier, john buchanan, who wouldn't talk to us. of the 27 MLAs in the government, 14 supported us, and none exactly said they were against us. It was also a majority of the cabinet. We started aiming the campaign directly at Buchanan and got ads in the Herald, "TELL JOHN IT"s WRONG" full page. The campaign began in 1986, with a conference sponsored by the CHildren's AID society of NS. One of the resolutions should be that sexual orientation should be in the human rights act. We succeeded in 1991 when Donald Cameron became premier. At the same time, Eric SMith gave up his suit gainst the government. In 1994 we got the act, after all the readings, and the organization was disbanded.
Why did it succeed? Timing. Quebec had add sexual orientation to its legislation, Ontario 1986, Yukon & Manitoba 1987. Every province had declared their intention to make the change. THe Canadian Bar Association declared that they considered sexual orientation to be implicitly part of the Charter. Also, a fabulous collection of allies. More than 120 organizations declared that they were on board. MarilynPears? from the Children's Aids Society, BarbaraRumscheidt, Dr PamBrown, Alexa McDonough - with the NDP as the first party to support us. She came to all our press conferences. Debbie Forsyth Smith, Marilyn Keddy, of the Women's Action Coaltiion.
My story: When KenBelanger and I made our first presentation to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, a gentleman told us that we were evil and abominations, a plague, had brought the plague of AIDS on teh world. up until then it had been a quiet lobbying campaign. so we called CBC and went on CBC and wen ton Information Morning the next morning. Then, Dr Cokar himself gave an interview on TV. He also said he was on the human right's commission because he was John Buchanan's next door neighbour. Another Ally was Dr Tony Johnstone, who was the chair of the human rights commission - he came out against his own commission, saying they were political appointees and didn't know anything about human rights.
Longtime member of NSRAP. I got involved when the biggest item on the agenda was Same Ses Marriage. When I joined NSRAP there were more lawyers on the board than now, and it was a small organization in terms of budget and scope. I first got involve ind thinking about samesex marriages by questioning whether that was the right thing to be on the agenda at that time. Is it something worth investing all our time and energy into? Should we be seen as the same as straight people? When I joined NSRAP there were a few couples ready to come forward with this. THe arguments were more about equality in the law or whether the Bible should dictate the roles of gays and lesbians in the society. It was this latter argument which brought me on board with samesex marriage. THis was probably the most significant chagne in Canadian law for gays and lesbians. it invovled actions in the courts - a series of them - and then another round of aaction in front of Parliament, an attemt to control the debate that was ongoing in the media - with energy invested in the media to convince the public. Finding allies in the cause was usful -, particularlty the trades unions. Finding allies in organized relitiong was also valuable, so whenever there was an opposing religious voice, we could also find a supporting one. It invovled a lot of coodination of groups working in the various provinces under a federal umbrella. There were numerous numerous legal projects as well - on couple's rights, the rights of lesbain parents to both be listed on the child's birth certiicate. And ones on trans healthcare needs, name changes, se designation chages etc. Where does law reform fit within the movement? Lawsuits, human rights complaints, lobbying politicians. As an illustration of the importance, a lot of people asked whether there was anything to do once samesex marriage was won. When I got invovled 12-15 years ago t, there were a lot of things to work on. Big questions for the futre: how to resulve civil liberties, hate speech, hate crimes, the rights of people to disagree with lgbtu rights.
I was *almost* the youngest person here today at 30 -- but then Greg showed up after all. I was involved in activisim My activism followed on from Kevin's work. in Toronto, as an activist, that's what you did, protest for lgbt marriage. I undestand why peolel enat to get married. But I was alos critical of how many resources went into this vs, trans right or racial rights. And also, protesting the corporatization of Pride and other LGBT organziatons. I was invovled in the Dyke march initially - which had a bumpy start; now known as the Dyke & Trans march, founded by a lebsbina librarina and her partner. for women loving women, and a few of us had a probem with the scope of that queerness. FLAP was a women-and-trans-only space, or really Women & Jake only. We wanted to e trans inclusive but we weren't really sure how to do that, we were ojecting to "manarchists", CISgender male activists. And then a lot of us got involved in the Dyke March, including quite a few transfolk including one who was black and native. A lot of our friends were trans or in a relationship with them, so we got involved and changed it to the Dyke & Trans march. Back at the Youth Project, the trans youth were not sure if they wanted to be involved because they felt it was a T-Tack - the T was just tacke don with no actual effort to include the Trans community. Myself Jean Steinberg, and Mary Burnett and some of the youth transfolk decided to have a public meeting- in a back room at Menz Bar, and it was very well attended. By they way, there are cameras in the washrooms at Menz. Just a word of advice. ANyway it was packed, the meeting was three hours long Intiailly we were going to only not going to allow CIS gay men or CIS straight women; we would put the allies on the side. But, we didn't have the numebrs for that. In the end we decide dot allow the trnas folk to decide what the march would be - and they decided that it would be just a Dyke March - no T Tack. The next year we had a real, really well attended, dyke and trans march. It's odd that i'm up there speaking, because I'm the cis femm queer woman. It would be good to see someone organize an all-trans panel. Anyway, we took several meetings just to decid what the thing would be called. We were against the corporatization / mainstreaming of Pride. the Chair of Pride said they were workign on making Pride less ... promiscuous? What? and more family friendly - perhaps making gender non conforming folks under the carpet. there were many pride meetings when we'd have the Youth Project packed, and a bunch of us would have a meeting beforehand. From those groups we had the Trans Liberation League and NSRAP did a lot of work to make the trans legislation happen, but it was a goroup of young trans acivists who declared, "no, we need to make this a big deal.
My story: from the first Dyke March; there were abotu 100 people, and it felt amazing, and I'm told it felt a lot like the original Pride parades. we marched down Gottingen and ended up in the empty lot beside The COmpany House. "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" chants. As we marched down Gottingen, Hugo booted it out of Mens Bar, and started chanting "Yeah Dykes! Go Dykes!" I think some of that spilled into Radical Pride too.
When I started coming out to gSA meetings, it was called a Gay Striaght Alliance. I started out as that striaght friend who was supporitng others and then eventually said, "yeah no I'm frigging queer" . After a while the sweepign thing has been to change the meaning of GSA to Gender / Sexuality Alliance. Doens't it just work the wya it is, and then peolelc an assume the other things? Teenagers aren't the best to be voting on giant things. The second time the vote went through, it passed. I've been working on getting GSAs up and running in juniour highs - which are horrible places. Trying to get a bunch of 13-15 year olds to talk about seuxality without giggling too much is hard. Also, when parents hear about the GSAs in junior high, things get bad. We try to loophole things. THe one at my high scholl is called a Mosaic Group - called that becuase the queer ucommity isn't jsut a single thing, it's a bucnh of things coming together to make something beautiful. When we got our gender neutral bathroom going in high school, things didn't go over so well. But, that was in the zone of magical rainbows and ponies. People were doing things that parents don't like in our gender neutral bathroom. So, we gave out keys. But, that didn't work out so well - to give out a certain number of keys, but they got lost, and more got lost, and then the gender neutral bathroom didn't work out. We'll ahve it working again some time soon.
My story: it was amazing to organize a big GSA conference when I was still a teenager. Teenager are prone to get together and just say, "yeah, this sucks" so this was an opportunity to do soemthing else, to hear about good things goin on. also we shared how to run a GSA - getting a bunch of teenagers from several social groups to not kill each other while they're in a room together.
I just admitted to myself as trans a year or so ago. At one of the support meetings, Rad Pride was mentioned, and I was available, so I could spend lots of time exploring and helping with the community. it took a while before I could take off the rose coloured glasses. I jumped into the deep end. I idnetifed as genderqueer - that wa a bridge to my womanhood . It was July, a wfew weeks before Pride, when I was speaking to the whled icyt ," I soshould really come out" I hand't even been out a year yet. South House, where we're coming from - I've been on the baord since last fall. It used to be called the Dalhousie Women's Centre. thwith the name change comes a broadening of our focus - to do feminism well we need to do trans rights as well. We organized Queer Speed Dating it was amazing that all this spsace was mde for me, that I was able to contribute and create something where for decades of my life i never had commuity, it was transormative and healing. Rad Pride is focussed around a need in the communtiy for Pride Week activieis that are for eveyrbody al ot of us are a little disillusioned and are exlcuded by pride week, feel that Pride is not for us, e.g. political reasons, they focusu on issues that are not our issues. We want to make Pride accessible fphysically, and to make it accessible for people hwo don't want to consume alcohol, and to continue to get feedback to get feedback , to amek pride availbelf or YOU. There were was so much wonderful feedback from peole, "ive' benen disillusion, I'm a migrant queer person from Palestine, adn peopla re really hostile when I talk about what's going on from home." We did things like having self-care days . every day during Pride Week we had activities during the days - non vilolent commuication, dyke and trna smarch , queer speed dating. we're looking forward to making pride for everybody.