You too can become a hero

History can teach you how

History argues persuasively that only a handful of people have been admired for their glorious achievements and noble qualities. As a nation, Canadians have been notoriously reluctant to elevate ordinary individuals to the realm of heroism.

When Terry Fox dipped his artificial foot into the Atlantic Ocean on Apr 12, 1980 as he began his “Marathon of Hope,” his heroic perseverance was admired by Canadians from coast to coast. Today, our Canadian hero is commemorated through numerous awards, research grants and an annual fundraising run held in 60 countries. His name stands alone in modern-day Canadian heroism. Somehow the very notion of “hero” seems to be at odds with traditional views of what it means to be Canadian.

Louis Riel has come to be seen as a combination of martyr and hero in the eyes of many Canadians. In 1869, Riel helped stage the Red River Uprising to protect the rights of his people, the Métis. He was exiled to the United States but eventually returned to Canada to set up a provisional government. Riel became embroiled in the 1885 rebellion and was quickly crushed when the Canadian government responded with military force. Riel surrendered and his subsequent trial and execution aroused bitterness and debate. The qualities to be admired in Riel mirrored the strengths and values that characterized society at that particular time.

History also argues that some of the great heroes of the past were gay, like Florence Nightingale, Michelangelo and Gertrude Stein, likely the most famous lesbian in the world. Looking past the legends that they have become reveals them to be people just like you and me, and that people falling in love with members of their own gender is as old as the human race. You know that the terms heterosexual and homosexual were only made up in the last hundred years or so.

Even though our history is full of great acts and great people, the creation of a gay identity is a dynamic process to which we all contribute. And the stakes have been raised. The debate over equal marriage for same-sex couples, for example, has mobilized politicians, religious groups, Canada’s court system, media and the citizenry of Canada into one of the biggest battles our community has faced in years. You’ll even witness some lively debate on the same-sex marriage issue in Blaine Marchand’s and Suki Lee’s columns.

Bill C-250, which seeks to add sexual orientation to the classes of identifiable groups protected under the criminal code governing hate crime, is also causing quite a stir. The issues around this bill are quite profound and it’s imperative that Bill C-250 become law so that crimes against gays and lesbians can be successfully prosecuted.

Gays and lesbians should “definitely” be alarmed, says literary expert Lorraine Weir, when referring to a federal bill on child pornography that just began hearings in the justice committee.


The debate in question centres around Bill C-20 which, if passed, will wipe out the artistic merit defence to child pornography and replace it with a broad, vague term called the public good. You can read more on Bill C-20 on page 12 of this issue.

All of these issues are important, of course, but the people who have set examples in our community or figured in our collective history in a way that we feel is important need to be elevated to the realm of heroism.

Just as Riel mirrored the strengths and values of his time, many outstanding individuals who reflect the dynamism and diversity of our community deserve to be honoured with a Capital Xtra’s Heroes of 2003 award.

There are many outstanding personalities who have inspired and enriched the community we live in, and we invite you to tell us why they merit recognition.

We are calling for nominations for Community Activist of the Year, Youth Activist of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, AIDS Activist of the Year, Achievement in Arts, Achievement in Sports, Entrepreneur of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Hero Awards 2003 is being held in the Grand Salon of the Crowne Plaza Hotel the evening of Nov 21.

Nominations must be received no later than Oct 17, 2003.

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