The city of London took a step towards leaving behind its “homophobic actions of the past,” when Mayor Matt Brown offered an apology to the LGBTQ2 community for something that happened more than 20 years ago.
It was 1995 when council and then-mayor Dianne Haskett denied a request from the Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO) to issue a Gay Pride proclamation.
Before a large crowd on the steps of city hall Friday morning, Brown acknowledged the city’s “tolerant” and “insensitive” actions — undeterred by the freezing rain and wind.
“It hurts. It hurts to know any Londoner was ever made to feel unworthy, unwelcome, unloved, because of who they love and because of their gender identity,” said Brown.
“I’m here to tell you that everyone in this community is worthy, and everyone in this community is welcome in 2018.”
It wasn’t until two years later that the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled Haskett and council had discriminated against members of the LGBTQ2 community. And it was Richard Hudler, the president of HALO, who led the charge and filed the complaint.
“I could not have taken on that battle without the tremendous support I received not only from HALO, but from the members of the public, London and beyond, and even from city councillors,” said Hudler, who travelled from Toronto for the event.
“I want to accept this apology, and thank Mayor Brown very much.”
Five members of council at the time supported and endorsed the proclamation when it was put to a vote. Among them was former city councillor Megan Walker.
“We stood, and we advocated, and we wanted you to know that one day — your human rights would be recognized by the city of London,” she told the LGBTQ2 community Friday.
“It was such a powerful day in my life,” she said, referring to the city issuing a Gay Pride proclamation in 1998 following the human rights ruling and the election of a new council.
“The LGBTQ2 communities have made a difference in the lives of all of us, and in fact changed the course of life for many individuals who were not even born in 1995. It made it possible for us to gather at Pride, and what a gathering it is,” said Walker.
Following the apology, people made their way inside city hall for a reception.
“I think it’s really important for the youth,” said Bruce Flowers, a former teacher at Saunders Secondary School, and a member of HALO’s last board in 2005.
“It shows that the world is a very different place and much more accepting place … it’s way too late for me because I’m 70 now, but for young people — they’re looking to the future and changes that have happened, it gives a positivity to their life and their future.”
John Marriott, a retired Thames Valley District School Board teacher, feels the apology is important for young people too.
“It’s still really hard for a lot of kids. We still have kids that suicide, that suffer depression, anxiety, and are bullied and harassed by students.”
Not only does Marriott want to see growing acceptance among youth, but he wants to see growing supports for teachers who identify as a member of the LGTBQ2 community too, citing harassment and discrimination he says he experienced while working as a teacher.
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