“We Demand” (1971 – gay rights activists)

The legalization of homosexuality “between consenting adults” (age 21 or over) gave formal birth to what we now know as the ‘gay rights movement’ in Canada. On 28 August 1971, almost two years to the day after buggery was decriminalized and homosexuality legalized a group of homosexual activists, armed with a list of ten demands, picketed on Parliament Hill.  The ten demands and the elaboration on those demands were printed in the premier 1971 edition of The Body Politic, a controversial gay rights monthly published by an informal collective which was incorporated as Pink Triangle Press in 1975.  The Body Politic ceased publication in 1987.  Pink Triangle Press publishes three three gay rights papers: Xtra (Toronto based), Xtra West (Vancouver) and Capital Xtra (Ottawa).  In 1977 The Body Politic came under fire for publishing an article by a member of the collective, Gerald Hannon, with the self-explanatory title “Men Loving Boys Loving Men.”  In later years a public furor erupted over  allegations that Hannon used his platform as professor to advocate “intergenerational sex.” Hannon, then a professor of journalism at Ryerson, eventually lost his teaching post at Ryerson.  In more recent years he was actively involved in the choir at a Toronto Roman Catholic church. 

Publication of “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” led to a raid on The Body Politic offices and charges against Pink Triangle Press, Hannon and two others for publishing obscene material.  The lengthy trial and appeal process concluded with acquittal. 

“We Demand” is reproduced below as it appears in various online gay and lesbian archives with the note that typos in the original are represented by [sic].  Some of the demands are extraneous to Cornwall.  Those seeking to equate homosexual and heterosexual sexual activity, amending the Criminal Code to remove crimes such “gross indecency,” and lowering the age of consent for homosexual activity are not. 

Note that nowhere is the word “gay” to found.  Ditto lesbian.  Those words had not at the time become part and parcel of the gay rights lexicon.  The same holds true for “sexual orientation.”  There is no mention in We Demand of rights based on “sexual orientation.”  However, “We Demand” is early in the movement.  In time “sexual orientation” became the language of choice for gay rights activists, politicians, lawyers and judges who advocated and/or advanced the gay rights agenda – this despite the fact and repeatedly stated fears that the nebulous phrase “sexual orientation” is an open door which will eventually oblige us to provide special rights and protections for men who claim a special sexual orientation towards children.  (even Dr. Wolfe, and “expert” witness at the Cornwall Public Inquiry, referred to paedophilia as a sexual orientation) 

And, finally, I do believe every demand demanded by the fledgling activists has been partially or completely met .“We Demand” is reproduced below.

 WE DEMAND1. The removal of the nebulous terms “gross indecency” and “indecent act” from the Criminal Code and their replacement by a specific listing of offences, and the equalization of penalties for all remaining homosexual and heterosexual acts; and defining “in private” in the Criminal Code to mean “a condition of privacy.” The terms “gross indecency” and “indecent act” in the Criminal Code remain largely undefined, thus leaving the offensiveness and degree of offensiveness of many sexual acts open to interpretation by enforcement officials according to their personal prejudices — which by and large are anti- homosexual. Therefore a specific listing of public offences is crucial in that only in this way can personal bias be eradicated and the legal intent of the law be preserved.In addition we recommend that the penalty for the specified public offences be summary in cases where sexuality, per se, is involved, and that only when other mitigating factors (e.g. false premise [sic; promise?], extreme youth, threats, etc.) are present, the offenses [sic] be indictable and, then only when a specific complaint has been brought by a private citizen.

In our experience with court cases, Sections 147 and 149 of the Criminal Code have been used to cover public homosexual acts, an offence which is punishable upon indictable conviction; similar public heterosexual acts have usually been dealt with under Section 158 of the Criminal Code, an offence which is punishable on summary conviction.

Moreover, indecent assault upon a female (Section 141) can result in a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, while a person — in this case, always a male — convicted of indecent assault upon another male (Section 148) is liable to imprisonment for ten years. There is no reason for the continuation of this discrepancy in maximum penalties since the relevant factor here involved is assault, not the sex of the person assaulted.

Again in our experience, “in private” when applied to homosexual acts means strictly in the confines of one’s home or apartment (cf. Section 149(a)(2) of the Criminal Code). For heterosexual acts this interpretation of “in Private” [sic] is less stringent, as the existence of “lovers- lanes” so well testifies.

A more realistic approach is to supplant “in private” with “a condition of privacy”. In this way, persons engaged in sexual acts who have genuinely attempted to create a “condition of privacy” should not be arrested, but — as now happens with most heterosexuals — be told to “move along.” (For further relevant information: cf. Gigeroff, Alex K.; Sexual Deviation in the Criminal Law, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1968).

2. Removal of “gross indecency” and “buggery” as grounds for indictment as a “dangerous sexual offender” and for vagrancy.

A particularly grievous inequity arises from the fact that since persons convicted of homosexual acts are usually charged under Sections 147 and 149 of the Criminal Code, they are liable to be labeled as “dangerous sexual offenders” and sentenced to “preventive detention” for an indefinite period under Section 661 of the Criminal Code. Especially since “gross indecency” is undefined, we feel that the various types of sexual acts falling under these charges (Sections 147 and 149) are of such a nature as not to be considered as a basis for inclusion under Section 661.

Section 164 of the Criminal Code labels an individual as vagrant and subject to summary conviction if, inter alia, he or she has been convicted of an offence such as “gross indecency”. Since, as noted above, “gross indecency” is a nebulously employed term, conviction under this provision is likewise dubious in terms of the legitimate applicability of Section 164.

Denying the right of an individual to frequent specific places (viz., school grounds, play grounds, public parks or bathing areas) on the basis of having been convicted of “gross indecency” is excessive especially when the specific offence for which the individual was convicted may have been merely an indiscretion and in no way a harmful act. Such individuals are prevented from subsequently participating in an area of public life. (Not even a bank robber is forever forbidden to deal with a bank!).

3. A uniform age of consent for all female and male homosexual and heterosexual acts.

Since the Federal Government of Canada does not recognize legal marriages between homosexual persons, the age of consent for their sexual contact, ipso facto, is twenty-one years of age. However, since heterosexual parties can be joined in a legally recognized marriage, their age of consent is dependent only upon the age at which they can legally enter a marriage contract. This disparity results in an obvious inequity supported by Federal Statute (cf. Section 149(a)(1) of the Criminal Code).

Further inequities result in that Sections 138, 143 and 144 of the Criminal Code specify various ages of consent for heterosexual acts between unmarried persons. If differences in age of consent are to be provided for non-married heterosexuals, the same should likewise apply for homosexuals, so as to preserve the intent of the law regardless of sexual preference.

In addition we believe that the age of consent (twenty-one) for engaging in sexual acts — again, with particular reference to homosexuals — is unrealistic and should thus be lowered for all the above reasons. This is further supported by the fact that a number of provinces have reduced the age of majority. The effect of this is that individuals under the age of twenty-one can enter into contractual agreements, vote and drink alcoholic beverages, but cannot exercise their sexual preferences due to Section 149(a)(1) of the Criminal Code.

It is blatantly inconsistent that an individual is recognized as being mature enough to decide for himself or herself such important questions as entering into contracts, voting and drinking, etc., yet is not deemed mature enough to determine his or her sexual preference — no small part of one’s life.

In noting this we are not suggesting what specific age of consent for sexual acts should be adopted, but rather that the principle of maturity be applied uniformly to all aspects of deciding individual prerogatives.

4. The Immigration Act be amended so as to omit all references to homosexuals and “homosexualism.”

Denying immigration to Canada for any individual merely on the basis of his or her “homosexualism” is inconsistent, in principle, with Section 149(a)(1) of the Criminal Code. Since “homosexualism” is not, in itself, an illegal practice between consenting adults in private, the Immigration Act thus discriminated against a minority group — a strange practice for a democratic country.

The clauses discriminating against homosexuals in the Immigration Act also contradicts [sic] the intent of Section 149(a)(1) which was to remove the government “from the bedrooms of the nation”. The effect of these clauses is, strangely enough, to put the government back into the bedroom — in this case, not only in Canada, but in other nations as well.

Despite the legal status of homosexual acts in the country of origin, the prospective immigrant may realize his or her homosexuality only after entry to Canada where, supposedly, homosexual acts between consenting adults in private is a non-issue.

The Immigration Act therefore blatantly denies entry, solely on the basis of sexuality, to potentially valuable individuals who could, in many ways, significantly contribute to Canadian society.

Finally, the existence of this type of discriminatory legislation deprecates the moral character of present homosexual Canadian citizens, many of whom have made and are making valuable contributions to Canadian society at all levels.

(For all the above: cf. paragraphs (e) and (f) Section 5 and Subsection (1) of Section 19 of the Immigration Act.)

5. The right of equal employment and promotion at all government levels for homosexuals.

While the intent of the Criminal Code amendment (Section 149(a)(1)[)] was to make private homosexual act a non-issue in Canada, the proposed implementation of Paragraph 100 of the Royal Commission on Security, does, in fact make ones homosexuality an issue in the promotion of incumbent and the recruitment of prospective civil servants. Again this practice subverts the intent of the law.

The “reasoning” of Paragraph 100 evidently relates to the homosexual’s supposed suseptibility [sic] to coercion or blackmail arising from his or her wish to prevent disclosure of his or her homosexuality (past or present) to family, spouse, friends, employers, constituents, etc. The individual might suffer from such revelation due to the prejudice against homosexuals in most areas of our society.

However, with the great changes taking place in our social mores, individuals are less and less afraid to a [sic] admit their homosexuality unless a specific negative factor will result from such admission, e.g., dismissal or denial of promotion. Thus the recommendation of Paragraph 100 comes full circle, reinforcing the situation the Report is trying to prevent.

It is evident that if an individual freely admits his or her homosexuality and is not afraid of disclosure and engages solely in legal acts, that person is hardly susceptible to blackmail. One cannot profitably threaten to broadcast to others what is already known. The effect of Paragraph 100 is to force homosexuals into a furtive situation in which they might become susceptible to coercion. Thus Paragraph 100 again becomes self- defeating.

If “homosexuals are special targets for attention from foreign intelligence services” this is evidently due to the threat of dismissal from employment, a situation which could be greatly improved by a more open policy on the part of the government.

We suspect that in this report, despite the supposed magnitude of case histories, homosexuals were specifically noted simply because they represent a distinguishable minority divorced from the social existence of the writers of the Report.

While the authors were aware of the majority’s potential for adultery, homosexuality appeared to them to be a lesser potential and therefore one that could be mentioned without indicting too large a portion of the population. The result is that homosexuals have been used as scapegoats, while the issue of each individual’s ethical conduct has been ignored.

As stated in Paragraph 100, “each case must be judged in the light of all its circumstances” for all levels of government employment, regardless of sexuality, individuals should be accepted or rejected on their own merits, their personal integrity, their stability and their professional capabilities, and not barred from promotion solely on the ground of a minority status be it colour, race, creed, sex or sexuality.

(Paragraph 100 of the Report of the Royal Commission on Security reads:

The question of homosexuality is a contentious area, especially as social mores change. It is a fact, demonstrated by a large number of case histories, that homosexuals are special targets for attention from foreign intelligence services. What is more, there seems to us clear evidence that certain types of homosexuals are more readily compromised than non-deviate persons. However, we feel that each case must be judged in the light of all its circumstances, including such factors as the stability of the relationship, the recency of the incidents, the public or private character of the acts, the incidence of arrests or convictions, and the effect of any rehabilitative efforts. In general, we do not think that past homosexual acts or even current stable homosexual relationships should always be a bar to employment with the public service or even to low levels of clearance. We do feel however that, in the interest of the individuals themselves as well as in the interest of the state, homosexuals should not normally be granted clearance to higher levels, should not be recruited if there is a possibility that they may require such clearance in the course of their careers and should certainly not be posted to sensitive positions overseas.)

6. The Divorce Act be amended so as to omit sodomy and homosexual acts as grounds for divorce; moreover in divorce cases homosexuality, per se, should not preclude the equal right of child custody.

Whereas bestiality and rape are, in all cases, offences under the Criminal Code, homosexuality is not. Therefore linking sodomy and homosexual acts with bestiality and rape as grounds for divorce is to impute a criminal, unnatural and immoral nature to forms of sexuality which, in themselves, are none of the above.

We are in agreement with enlightened sociological opinion and legislation, such as exists in England and California, that the concept of “fault” should be removed from our divorce legislation. The interest of the state in marital breakdown should be in providing the necessary machinery to ensure that the interests of all concerned parties are protected.

Consistent with the above, child custody, when at issue, should be decided on the basis of the merits of each individual parent and what is in the best interest of the child or children. In this regard, the homosexuality of the parent [,] in itself, is not sufficient grounds for determining the adequacy of that parent, qua parent.

7. The right of homosexuals to serve in the Armed Forces, and therefore the removal of provisions for convicting service personnel of conduct and / or acts legal under the Criminal Code; further the rescinding of policy statements reflecting on the homosexual.

Given the fact that Section 149 (a) (1) of the Criminal Code makes homosexual acts between consenting adults, in private, legal, it seems anomalous that Note (c) of Queen’s Regulations and Orders (103.25; “Scandalous Conduct by Officers”) and Note (b) of 103.26 (“Cruel or Disgraceful Conduct”) both suggest that these above sexual acts may be considered punishable offences in the military. Thus, this effectively contravenes Section 149 (a) (1) of the Criminal Code, and, thereby, the principle that military law should be subordinate to civil law.

Paragraph 6 of Canadian Forces Administrative Order 19-20 (“Sexual Deviation – Investigation, Medical Examination, and Disposal”) reads: [“] Service policy does not allow retention of sexual deviates in the Forces.” This is conjoined with Queen’s Regulations and Orders 103.25 and 103.26 (see above) so as to specify the manner of discharging persons convicted of homosexual acts while in military service.

Again, the mere fact of one’s sexuality should be no more a basis for determining the suitability of military personnel than it should be for civilian employees. We do not accept the argument that the military is exempt from Section 149 (a) (1) of the Criminal Code due to the supposed susceptibility of homosexuals to breeches [sic] of security through blackmail anymore than we accepted the reasoning of the Royal Commission on Security, Paragraph 100 (cf. the rationale for demand number five).

8. To know if it is a policy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to identify homosexuals within any area of government service and then question them concerning their sexuality and the sexuality of others; and if this is the policy we demand its immediate cessation and destruction of all records so obtained.

While this demand stands by itself we offer in support the following:

The University of Toronto Homophile Association on January 13, 1971, wrote to the Office of the Solicitor General inquiring as to whether the Royal Canadian Mounted Police engages in identifying and questioning homosexuals in government positions. To date, no reply has been forthcoming.

Identifying and / or questioning indivisuals [sic] on the basis of their sexuality is both irrelevant and inconsistent with the spirit of Section 149 (a) (1) of the Criminal Code. Moreover, we view such a practice as an inherent breach of the CANADIAN BILL OF RIGHTS [sic upper case], Part 1, Section 1 (b): “The right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law”.

9. All legal rights for homosexuals which currently exist for heterosexuals.

Although numerous instances of the injustices and discrimination embodied by this demand could be cited, the following are indicative of the inequities with which homosexuals must contend.

(1) because homosexuals cannot legally marry, they face economic discrimination in that the benefits of filing joint income tax returns and conferring pensions rights are denied to them;

(2) likewise homosexuals are unable to partake of the benefits of public housing;

(3) they are brought up under an education system which either through commission or ommission [sic] fosters both a narrow and prejudicial view of homosexuality;

(4) again owing to the fact that homosexuals cannot enter into legally recognized marriages, they are not permitted to adopt children except under the most unusual circumstances. (Although we recognize that adoption is an area of provincial jurisdiction, we feel that this does not completely remove all responsibility from the federal government);

(5) too often in the private sector, once an individual’s homosexuality has become know, he or she is discriminated against in employment, and exploited by unscrupulous landlords;

(6) in known places frequented by homosexuals or in places where they gather, both direct and subtle harassment by police officers is too often commonplace;

(7) since sexuality is not covered under the Canadian Bill of Rights, homosexuals are excluded from protections which are guaranteed to other minority groups such as those of race, religion, or national origin.

While the list could go on (for example, the condition of homosexuals in prisons) the point should be by now sufficiently clear that, as a group, homosexuals are “second class citizens” in a democratic society which purports to recognize only one class of citizenship based on equality.

10. All public officials and law enforcement agents to employ the full force of their office to bring about changes in the negative attitudes and de facto expressions of discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals.

In a democratic society, sexuality is no more a reason for discrimination than is race, color [sic], national origin, religion, or sex.

As a minority group, homosexuals are deserving, in terms of the democratic principal [sic] of majority rule and minority rights, of government protection from discrimination arising from social prijudices [sic] as are other minority groups.

Laws are effective not only due to their ability to be enforced but because they are consistent with the principles upon which the political system is founded. Thus bad laws which are derived not from a principle of harm or injury but from ignorance and / or prejudice are detrimental to a whole system of laws founded upon the basis of justice, fairness and equality.

In line with the above, the role of public officials must be twofold:

(1) to serve as legislators formulating the letter of the law, and

(2) to serve as representatives of the spirit of a system founded upon democratic principles. As such, holders of public office must transcend prejudicial attitudes (in this case against homosexuals) in favour of leading society to levels consistent with the principles of human rights.

We therefore call upon all government officials to publicly support an amendment to Part 1 Section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights so as to read:

“it is hereby recognized and declared that here in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion, sex or sexuality, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely. . . ” [ellipses in original]

We also call upon government officials as a show of good faith, to enter immediately into a dialogue with the various Canadian homophile groups regarding all the aforementioned demands and to publicly respond by supporting the purpose of this brief.