Ottawa’s Government Conference Centre, built in the early 1900s, began its existence as Ottawa’s main train station. Not only was it a train station, but around that time, it became a public “cruising spot”, especially for men interested in men.
And when police began cracking down on the public cruising, the queer community fought back.
This story is one of the many that students heard on Nov. 18, when Algonquin’s Queer Student Alliance hosted Jade Pichette, volunteer and community outreach co-ordinator for the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. The event was held as part of Algonquin’s Trans Day of Remembrance, which took place on Nov. 20.
Through letters, pictures, newspaper clippings and other artifacts stored at the CLGA in Toronto, the organization tries to give people a better understanding of the history of Canada’s LGBTQ community over the years.
However, the event drew little attention from students. Only about 11 attended, even though the main event organizer, first-year public relations student, Kayla Spagnoli, had sent word of the event to at least 50 people, according to the event’s Facebook page.
“I think events like these are important for students, and beneficial to everyone who attends,” said Spagnoli. “It’s an opportunity for people who are interested in LGBTQ history, but might not know much about it, to learn about this type of stuff for free.”
Zachary Gifford, second-year general arts and science student, who also attended the event, agreed with Spagnoli.
“LGBTQ is one of those common history things that have been erased, whether from homophobia, or transphobia, or both,” said Gifford. “I think Algonquin needs to catch up in terms of issues concerning the LGBTQ community, and hosting events like these is the way to do it.”
Presenter Jade Pichette, who has been in the public education department for the past decade and with the CLGA for a year, hopes that events like these can be hosted more often around Canada.
“I’m passionate about anything regarding LGBTQ issues,” said Pichette. “Events like these should definitely be held more often, and I definitely want to do more of this type of outreach outside of Toronto.”
Pichette explained that learning about the stories and history of members of the queer community is a way to look back in time. It’s also a way to realize that some struggles people may have faced back then are not all that different from some issues the queer community faces today.
“People can look back at what’s been lived through, and what’s been dealt with, and use it as a way to re-invent themselves,” said Pichette. “Knowing the stories of our past is more important now than ever before, because the struggles of yesterday, can help inform today.”