News & Events

Amnesty International: We Demand

On 28 August 1971 about 200 activists gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to read a list of demands, the first time that Canadians had protested publicly for gay rights.

On 23 February 2021 members of the Croydon High Amnesty group listened while Mr Flower, our VIP for the session, took us back to that day in Ottawa which was a turning point in history. The document set a national strategy that was pursued for years until all the demands were met. The demands, which one would not question today, were seen as radical at the time, for instance the demand for ‘Amendments to human rights laws so that they extended the same privileges and freedoms enjoyed by the rest of society to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals’. After watching a short film from the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation*, Mr Flower asked for the girls’ responses. The group was shocked that the Immigration Act of 1952 barred ‘homosexuals’ from entering Canada, and that courts often denied gays and lesbians access to their children.

Mr Flower referred to the Stonewall riots in 1969 in New York City, a response by the gay community to a brutal police raid. He pointed out that the ‘fight’ response is born out of injustice and unfair laws. Mr Flower added that while a march or rally may be effective, no single act of protest will bring about permanent change; this needs to be accompanied by a transformation of hearts and minds. In answer to Mr Flower’s question, ‘How can we as allies of the LGBTQ community help?’ girls responded:

  • We need to educate ourselves by reading diversely
  • We should keep up with current affairs
  • I would like to put up an LGBTQ flag outside my house
  • We can use social media to express our support
  • We should stand up for our LGBTQ friends especially if they are being ridiculed in their absence
  • It would be a good idea for us to use pronouns in signatures as it sends a message to everyone that you are not going to assume their gender. It makes things more inclusive.

During the month of February has featured a ‘front page’ article entitled ‘Demand Justice for Turkish Students defending LGBTQ+ Rights’**. Two young students, Melike Balkan

and Özgür Gür, face 3 years’ imprisonment for protesting the banning of PRIDE on their university campus. In December, as part of our support for Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign, we signed

appeal letters to the Minister of Justice and sent messages of support to the

students. We echo Özgür’s words: Pride has an extraordinary value…. It is a struggle against violence, against hate crimes, all over the world.’ We continue to ‘demand’ that people’s human rights be upheld, particularly those groups who are marginalised by society.


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