“That coin” Doc mentions is in reference to a new one issued by the Canadian mint to celebrate the 1969 passage of Bill C-150, one of the first efforts to decriminalize homosexuality (among other things) in Canada. The coin is a nice piece of work, designed by prominent gay artist Joe Average, who lives in Vancouver and whose art has been elevated to “iconic” in Canadian LGBTQ culture.
Tabled by the Pierre Trudeau government, it was careful not to be seen as “condoning” anything. After all, we had taken down laws against adultery and fornication, but that didnt mean that Canada necessarily thought fornication and adultery were good ideas. So the government found itself walking a thin line, but making sure that everyone understood this was a bill whose time had come. As noted in the tabling speech, “yesterday’s order, if unresponsive to change, becomes tomorrow’s oppression.”
The bill itself was problematic on a number of fronts for Parliament. In addition to making us “legal”, it also banned abortion and made divorce easier, and many Conservatives (as well as some Liberals) saw this as an affront to decency. Some of the debate that preceded the bill’s passage sounds scarily contemporary, especially in light of Alberta’s recent election, where a number of candidates rode on an anti-LGBTQ platform… and won. Perhaps the most biting moment was one that wasnt supposed to be caught on microphone, a “joke” (in the loosest sense) made by Robert Muir. John Diefenbaker had just done a bit of finger-wagging at then-Minister-of-Justice John Turner: “Mr. Speaker, it is with deep concern that I view a young member of this House with a distinguished past and, I hope, a distinguished future advancing the arguments he adduced yesterday. It must have been difficult but after all, in the shadow stands the prime minister (Mr. Trudeau) keeping watch upon his flock. What has the government done for the people since December 13 last?”
Muir’s response? “Make them all homos!”
But that was far from the most absurd moment. There were references to rabbits. Someone suggested that the bill limit the number of people engaged in same-sex relations to two because “three’s a crowd!” Debate on the bill was held up for weeks by a group of Catholic Creditistes of Québec. When anything would do to delay debate, one went so far as to suggest that the whole thing was a Communist plot to prevent reproduction in Canada so as to facilitate a later invasion.
I am not making this up.
Ultimately, the bill passed, 149-55 along party lines, and provided the groundwork for many more such laws put into effect to protect the rights of LGBTQ citizens of Canada. And now we have a coin to commemorate that — a coin which has now been trashed by both the far left and the far right — for wildly different reasons, of course, but reasons that more than ably demonstrate that, in many ways, we havent learned a damn thing since 1969.