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Egale mourns loss of George Hislop
October 11, 2005
George Hislop passed away at approximately 6 pm on Saturday, October 8, 2005, in Toronto. He was 78. George was a pioneer of the LGBT rights movement, and we at Egale salute him. He cleared the path that we follow today, a path that would have been much more difficult without him.
Below are a few news reports from the weekend. If you live in or near Toronto, visitation hours at the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home (467 Sherbourne St.) are from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday Wednesday, October 11 and 12. There will be no funeral at George’s request.
A Celebration of George's life will be held in Toronto at Woody's (467 Church Street) on Sunday, November 6, from 5 pm to 8 pm. All are welcome.
Rest in peace George.
‘Canada’s official homosexual’ George Hislop dies at age 78
Always available to gay people in trouble
Founded country’s first gay rights organization
Oct. 10, 2005. 01:00 AM
George Hislop’s phone number was always in the book.
And he paid a steep price for it.
There were the 3 a.m. phone calls, death threats, even a call from a man who had just murdered a 12-year-old boy.
But even at a time when being gay was illegal, Hislop wanted his name in the phone book.
“I said to George, ‘Why don’t you get your number unlisted?’” recalled longtime friend Peter Bochove. “He said, ‘Well, what if someone needs to reach me?’”
And I said, ‘Who?’”
“He said, ‘I never met him yet. It might be somebody who needs to talk.’”
That lifeline ended yesterday at Toronto Grace Hospital, where Hislop succumbed to a long illness at age 78.
A 35-year activist for gay rights, friends say he never came out of the closet — because he had never spent any time there.
“George had a wonderful advantage over a lot of gay men,” Bochove said. “He grew up in a family environment where he was treated like the person he was. His sexuality was never an issue.”
And Hislop knew what to do with his advantage.
“He had a finely honed sense of injustice and when that was offended in any way shape or form, he had to do something about it.”
That quality, however, could also be a trial in a world where homosexuality was illegal. And the threat of a beating loomed ever large.
“He was Canada’s official homosexual for many years,” recalled friend and lawyer Doug Elliott. “He really felt that, despite all the hate calls and things like that, he always felt that it was important that he be available to gay people in trouble.”
After homosexual acts between consenting adults were finally removed from the Criminal Code in 1969, Hislop wasted little time in founding the city’s first gay rights group — “which was really the first gay rights organization in the country,” Elliott said.
He founded Gay Day in 1970, which would eventually evolve into the massive celebration known as Pride Week. He helped rally thousands to protest police raids on bathhouses in 1981. Hislop also helped organize legal help for those convicted.
One night in 1977, Saul Betesh, one of three men convicted of murdering 12-year-old Emmanuel Jacques, took advantage of Hislop’s open-telephone policy.
“He called George and told George he had killed this boy, and where the body was hidden,” Bochove recalled. “So George had to deal with all of that — and did so. He arranged for him to get a lawyer, he called the police, got him to turn himself in.”
The discovery that Hislop had esophageal cancer came after he learned he had Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and an extremely weak heart.
But even during his long illness, Hislop led a campaign against the federal government for survivor benefits for widowed same-sex partners. His own partner of 28 years, art director Ron Shearer, died in 1986.
True to character, Hislop emerged victorious, receiving a cheque in the mail just six weeks ago. But he never managed to take the cruise he had planned.
Indeed, Hislop’s final days were spent in hospital surrounded by a steady stream of friends and supporters, including one-time political rival and longtime friend NDP Leader Jack Layton.
Hislop often held court in a bathhouse on Maitland Ave., regaling listeners with tales about the gay community.
But even his legendary fondness for bathhouses came in handy.
In 1988, when Bochove learned the city wasn’t renewing leases for bathhouses, he sued the City of Toronto.
“George Hislop was accepted by the court as an expert witness,” Bochove recalled, with a chuckle. “In fact, Judge Harold referred to him in his decision as a habitué of gay bathhouses for the past four and a half decades — which tickled George. But his very expert testimony won us the case. There’s no doubt in my mind. When George sat down to talk, people would listen.”
Visitation hours at the Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home (467 Sherbourne St.) are from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. tomorrow and Wednesday. There will be no funeral at Hislop’s request.
George Hislop dies in hospital; won survivor benefits for same-sex partners
October 10, 2005
TORONTO (CP) - George Hislop, a pioneer in the battle to win survivor benefits for widowed same-sex partners, has died at the age of 78.
When Hislop’s longtime partner died after years of contributing to the Canada pension plan, Hislop applied for a pension but was turned down.
He fought the decision and spent the last 19 years trying to get the rules changed.
Earlier this year, Hislop declared victory and in August he said he received his first cheque from the government.
“George was a leader in the lesbian and gay community in fighting discrimination and demanding equal respect,” said Douglas Elliott, Hislop’s lawyer.
“With his unique combination of charm and courage, George transformed our city, our nation and our world. His death is a great loss to all of us.”
The federal government began making the payments to Hislop despite the fact it planned to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to strike down a November 2004 Ontario Court of Appeal decision.
The Supreme Court challenge is expected to be heard in February, and Ottawa has warned beneficiaries that they may have to repay the money if the ruling is struck down.
At issue is federal legislation passed in 2000 that allowed same-sex partners to collect survivor benefits under the CPP. The law restricted payments to those whose partners had died after January 1998. That sparked complaints of discrimination against people who were arbitrarily excluded.
Hislop and his co-claimants want the cut-off point set in 1985, the year in which the Charter of Rights took effect and opened the door for gays and lesbians to eventually win equal treatment with heterosexual couples in pension matters.
The government has been fighting that demand for years. Ottawa says the case could set a precedent for a broad range of other social programs and end up costing the federal treasury up to $80 million.
© The Canadian Press 2005
Canada gay rights pioneer dies at 78
Monday, October 10, 2005 / 05:14 PM
George Hislop, the Canadian gay man who successfully sued the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) for the right to his partner’s pension, died during the weekend at Toronto’s Grace Hospital after a long illness. He was 78 years old.
Hislop was also the first openly gay political candidate in Canada, and he co-founded one of Canada’s first gay and lesbian organizations, the Community Homophile Association of Toronto.
“George was a leader in the lesbian and gay community in fighting discrimination and demanding equal respect,” said Douglas Elliott, Hislop’s lawyer. “In the early 1970s, when it was not easy to be out of the closet anywhere, George was out on national television with his partner.”
“With his unique combination of charm and courage, George transformed our city, our nation and our world,” Elliott said in a prepared statement. “His death is a great loss to all of us.”
Hislop had a common law partnership with Ronald Shearer. When Shearer died after years of contributing to the CPP, Hislop applied for a survivor’s pension but was denied.
Same-sex couples were excluded from such CPP benefits until August 2000, when the law was amended to include them. However, the only applied to people who same-sex partner died after Jan. 1, 1998. Shearer had died prior to that date, and thus Hislop was excluded.
Hislop launched a class-action suit that led to a Court of Appeal decision extending pensions to more than 1,000 gays and lesbians in Canada. The government, however, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear the case next May.
At the time of his death, Hislop had been for many years the president of the Hassle Free Clinic and a member of the Toronto’s Committee of Adjustments.
He was a candidate for Toronto City Council in 1980, and he was a leader in getting sexual orientation included in Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Gail Meredith, a fellow plaintiff in the class action suit, said of Hislop: “He truly made Canada a better place for everyone by showing us that we must never stop asserting our right to equality.”
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