Politics

New loonie to commemorate end of laws against homosexuality

The federal cabinet this month approved a new design for the loonie to commemorate the elimination of laws against homosexuality in 1969. The initiative 50 years ago was led by Pierre Trudeau. In 2017, his son Justin Trudeau issued an official apology for the injustices done to LGBT people in Canada, and promised compensation.

Royal Canadian Mint refuses to provide background or image of new coin, to 'maximize impact' of 2019 launch

A new $1 coin will commemorate the removal of criminal sanctions against homosexuality in 1969. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The Royal Canadian Mint is releasing a new $1 coin design next year, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.

Same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults was decriminalized in 1969, two years after then-justice minister Pierre Trudeau introduced amendments to the Criminal Code, famously declaring "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."

The new coin design was approved by the government of his son, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Dec. 14.

The Mint refused to provide an image or information about the new coin — including its release date and the artist's name — saying it wants to "maximize the impact" of the official launch.

Trudeau defends the sexual practices of Canadians, uttering the statement that made him famous. 2:21

But a newly posted cabinet order describes the design as a "… stylized rendering of two overlapping human faces within a large circle, the left half of the left face in front view and the right face in profile facing left, the two faces forming one whole face in front view composed of two eyes with eyebrows, a nose, a mouth and two ears with a small hoop earring on the left ear …"

The dates 1969 and 2019 will be on the coin, as well as the word 'equality' in English and French. The artist's name is given only as RA.

A lot of people were still arrested.- Cameron Aitken, Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, says the so-called decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 was only partial.

The coin's approval follows new legislation that came into force last June, as part of Justin Trudeau's 2017 apology to LGBT Canadians for past acts of discrimination by the authorities.

The Expungement of Historically Unjust Convictions Act allows people who were convicted of same-sex activity between consenting adults to apply for the destruction or permanent removal of those criminal records, affecting an estimated 9,000 people.

The official apology also came with a budget of $145 million, which includes $110 million for compensation for LGBT former civil servants whose careers were sidelined or terminated because of their sexuality, and $15 million for historical reconciliation, education and memorialization efforts.

Mint spokesman Alex Reeves said two LGBT groups were consulted during the planning for the coin: the Toronto-based advocacy group Egale Canada and the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD), based in Ottawa.

An image of Viola Desmond on the new $10 banknote. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

A spokesman for the latter group, which has been involved in education campaigns about historic discrimination, took issue with Ottawa's claim that homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, saying it was only partial. The definition of 'consenting adults' was limited to those 21 and over, for example, said Cameron Aitken.

"A lot of people were still arrested" after 1969, he said in an interview.

Earlier this year, the Bank of Canada issued a new design for the $10 banknote celebrating Viola Desmond, a black woman who challenged racial segregation at a cinema in New Glasgow, N.S., in 1946.

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