Gay activist’s fight for equality is first LGBTQ Heritage Minute
Director Stephen Dunn says making the first Heritage Minute about Canada’s LGBTQ community reminded him of the countless other queer stories which have gone mostly untold over the years. His sliver of history debuted Wednesday recounting gay activist Jim Egan’s work for equal rights, in what Dunn hopes will mark a small step towards putting some of those stories on record for the entire country. “Generally queer history isn’t really well documented for a number of obvious reasons,” the St. John’s filmmaker said, pointing out that gay sex wasn’t decriminalized in Canada until 1969, which likely pushed many stories into the closet. “I really struggle as a queer person to find people throughout history to look up to,” he added. The one-minute clip about Egan begins early in his career during the early 1950s when he wrote opinion columns in newspapers trying to dissolve negative perceptions of gay culture in the mainstream. He eventually became one of the first openly gay politicians in Canada. But Egan garnered far more attention when he launched a lawsuit against Ottawa for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act. The case led to the Supreme Court’s decision to deny him and his partner Jack Nesbit spousal rights in 1995. Even though he was defeated in the courts, Egan’s social and political contributions helped usher in another generation of activism, Dunn suggested. “What he was doing laid the groundwork,” said the 29-yearold director, whose semi-autobiographical “Closet Monster” won the 2015 Canadian feature film award at the Toronto International Film Festival.