Historica Canada releases first LGBTQ2 Heritage Minute about pioneer gay activist Jim Egan
TORONTO – JUNE 13, 2018 As communities across the country celebrate Pride, Historica Canada released a new Heritage Minute that tells the story of ground-breaking activist Jim Egan. The Minute explores Egan’s fight against homophobia in the 1950s and culminates with the 1995 Supreme Court verdict denying him and his partner Jack Nesbit spousal rights.
Egan, born in 1921, became an activist to change the negative representation of gay culture in media, risking imprisonment to write letters to editors and opinion columns starting in 1950, when same-sex relationships were illegal. He was one of the only people in Canada to speak out on this scale in the mainstream media against the treatment of queer people at this time.
Egan met Nesbit in 1948; they were together for 52 years. But upon his retirement, Egan’s bid for spousal benefits for Jack was denied because they were a same-sex couple. They spent 8 years challenging the law, and ultimately lost their case at the Supreme Court. Yet their fight forged change: The Supreme Court ruled that sexual orientation was a prohibited ground for discrimination under Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
“Jim Egan changed the way Canadians define equality and human rights, at a time when it was uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous for LGBTQ2 people to step forward,” said Anthony Wilson-Smith, President and CEO of Historica Canada. “We’re proud to tell his story, which is an important one not only for those affected, but for all Canadians who believe in equal rights.”
The Minute can be shared and embedded through this link.
Find more information about Jim Egan’s life and legacy on The Canadian Encyclopedia.
This Heritage Minute was produced by Historica Canada and Route Eleven and filmed in Toronto. It was written and directed by Stephen Dunn (Closet Monster).
The Heritage Minutes are made possible through funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage. The “Jim Egan” Heritage Minute was supported through the K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation and a partnership with Egale Canada.
Historica Canada offers programs that you can use to explore, learn, and reflect on our history, and what it means to be Canadian.