PATTI DAWN SWANSSON: Trudeau helped the Pride movement

Former Victoria News staffer considers late PM the patron saint of Pride

I get the warm-and-fuzzies for Pierre Elliott Trudeau at this time every year.

That’s because I’m old enough to recall the Great Gay Debate of the late 1960s, when I was fresh-faced, freshly scrubbed, fresh out of high school and full of fresh ideas. Also fresh was Trudeau, our nation’s soon-to-be prime minister.

Most gay people of my vintage can tell you that it was PET who, as federal justice minister in December 1967, declared that Big Brother had no business peeking into our boudoirs.

“There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” Trudeau explained after introducing Bill C-150 to Parliament, an initiative that would, among other things, lead to the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Thus, thanks to plucky Pierre, gay men no longer are being hauled off to the hoosegow for being gay men. My dearest male friends are gay and I’d rather visit them at Swan’s or Browns than at a federal penitentiary.

I bring this to your attention as we approach Pride Week (July 1 to 7) in Victoria, an appropriate time to gauge the distance the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender collective has travelled in its quest for equal rights.

For perspective, let’s retreat to 1960s Canada:

Homosexuality was a crime and officially was a mental illness. Homosexuals were viewed as a threat to national security.

Gay men were the subject of an RCMP witch hunt that resulted in thousands of civil servants and military personnel losing their jobs simply because they were suspected or confirmed to be gay.

During the Great Gay Debate, members of Parliament actually stood in the House of Commons and, without reprimand or sanction, told the nation that homosexuals were “predators” and “really sick.” One MP declared that homosexuality was something that “spreads like a plague.”

Sounds like fiction or fantasy, doesn’t it? But it’s true, kids. You can’t make up stuff like the Fruit Machine, a supposed “gay-detecting” contraption used by the RCMP – and funded by our Peeping Tom federal government.

Thus, for those of you who wonder why Victoria’s LGBT collective stages a flamboyant, rainbow-feathered celebration the first week of July each year, consider where we were and where we are.

We no longer are criminals. We officially have ceased to be mentally ill. We now marry. We raise families. We serve in our military, our government and the RCMP. Our affections are no longer closeted. We actually hold hands and – egads! – smooch in public.

So, yes, we celebrate societal gains, diversity, acceptance, true self and the day Pierre Trudeau booted Big Brother’s butt out of our boudoirs. Here’s to you, Pierre, the Patron Saint of Pride.

Patti Dawn Swansson is a former reporter with the News.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Cathy Armstrong, executive director of the Land Conservancy, Paul Nursey CEO of Destination Greater Victoria and Saanich Coun. Susan Brice helped to kick off the annual Greater Victoria Flower Count at Abkhazi Garden Monday. This year, the flower count is less about rubbing the region’s weather in the rest of Canada’ faces, and more about extending a bouquet of compassion and love. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
2021 Greater Victoria Flower Count sows seeds of compassion

Friendly flower count competition runs from March 3 to 10

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read