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Queer Ontario awards 2011 John Damien Award to queer youth in Catholic school system

December 15th, 2011

Queer Ontario Awards 2011 John Damien Award to Queer Youth in

Catholic School System

Award recipients reiterate importance of naming GSAs

TORONTO:  On Sunday, December 4, 2011 during the Queer Ontario hosted 25th Anniversary celebrations of Sexual Orientation’s Inclusion in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the host group presented the 2011 John Damien Award to St. Joseph’s GSA and Catholic Students for GSAs.  The recognition was cited for the courageous work of these youth advocating for the right to form and participate in GSAs in the Catholic School System.

During the acceptance speech, the youth reiterated the importance of having the agency to name the group as they choose, using the term ‘gay’ without shame, regardless of being in a Catholic school system.

Queer Ontario revived the award which had been established by its predecessor, the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (CGRO) which went on to become the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO).  Awarded 13 times between 1979 and 2004, the award recognizes individuals, groups or organizations that promote liberation for gender and sexually diverse people.  The award’s namesake is that of the late John Damien, who had been fired in the mid ‘70s from his job as a racing steward for being a ‘homosexual’.  The high profile case played a major role over a ten plus year campaign to have the Ontario Human Rights Code amended to include ‘sexual orientation’ as a ground for protection from discrimination, which was passed on December 2, 1986.

The celebration at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre included reminiscences, vigilance (ongoing campaign to have trans people recognized in human rights legislation), history and ongoing struggle for social rights beyond legal rights.


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