Theo Wouters and Roger Thibault named honorary citizens of Montreal

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Theo Wouters and Roger Thibault named honorary citizens of Montreal
WATCH: Two Montrealers have joined an illustrious list of honorary citizens of the city. The couple is being recognized for their years of fighting for LGBTQ rights. On the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, the pair cautions that the fight for equality is far from over. Global's Phil Carpenter reports – May 16, 2023

Theo Wouters and Roger Thibault are being recognized by the City of Montreal for their decades-long fight to advance LGBTQ2 rights.

At a ceremony at Montreal City Hall May 15, two days before the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, Mayor Valérie Plante granted the pair honorary citizenship, making the couple the latest on a list of honourees which includes former Quebec premier Lucien Bouchard and writer Mordicai Richler.

“It’s an honour to be on this list,” Wouters told Global News from their backyard in the Montreal suburb of Pointe Claire.

In 2002, the two became the first same-sex couple in Canada to be entered into a civil union, but he said they were still surprised by the honour.

“We were just bowled over yesterday by all the attention,” Wouters laughed.

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The attention they got during the ceremony was far different from the kind they were getting in the early days of their relationship, when the homophobic threats and intimidation came from all quarters.

“They started to be harassed around the end of the 1990s and then early 2000s,” noted Fo Niemi, head of the civil rights group, Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). “Then things got worse around right after 9-11.”

According to him, because of the failure of the police, other authorities and some neighbours to recognize the attacks as homophobic harassment, CRARR helped the couple to take some cases to the Quebec human rights tribunal, which ruled in the couple’s favour in 2008.

Niemi points out that decision helped the public, as well as authorities, to recognize the idea of homophobic harassment.

“Those who believe that they could go out and harass and discriminate against gay people, particularly in their neighbourhoods, in their homes with impunity, I think (the judgment) put a dent to that notion,” he explained.

Despite their achievements, Wouter worries for younger members of the LGBTQ2 communities, pointing to continuing acts of homophobia and saying people should not take hard fought for rights for granted.

“It is important that the young people really know their history a bit and be vigilant,” he stressed, “because times are changing and we don’t know what the future will be.”

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Still, these newly-minted honorary citizens are proud of everything they’ve accomplished together.

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