Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Born Today in 1929: Canada's First Openly Gay Senator, Laurier LaPierre

Laurier L. LaPierre, OC was born today, November 21, in 1929. He was a Canadian Senator, professor, broadcaster, journalist and author. He was a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, and 
was Canada's first openly gay senator.

Fluently bilingual, LaPierre was best known for having been co-host with Patrick Watson of the CBC's influential public affairs show This Hour Has Seven Days in the 1960s. After the show's much publicized cancellation, LaPierre moved to politics as a "star candidate" for the New Democratic Party in the 1968 federal election. The party was hoping that he would help achieve an electoral breakthrough in Quebec, but he came second in the riding of Lachine with 19.5% of the vote.

He returned to teaching, broadcasting and writing until his appointment to the Senate in June 2001. As a member of the Liberal caucus, LaPierre was an outspoken supporter of Jean Chrétien against supporters of rival Paul Martin.

LaPierre was born in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. He received a Bachelor of Arts (1955) from the University of Toronto (St. Michael's College), and a Master of Arts (1957) and Ph.D. in History (1962) from the University of Toronto.

He taught History at the College of Christ the King (now King's College), University of Western Ontario (1959–61); Loyola College, Montreal (now part of Concordia University) (1961–63); and McGill University (1963–78). In 1978, he moved to Vancouver to work in television but also taught briefly at Simon Fraser University.

In 1960, he married Paula (Jo) Armstrong and they had two sons: Dominic born 1962 and Thomas born 1965. They were divorced in 1982.

He moved to Ottawa in 1990, continued to work in broadcasting and writing, and lived there until his death, in the later years, with his partner Harvey Slack.

He wrote several popular histories including Quebec: A Tale of Love; Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Romance of Canada; 1759: The Battle for Canada; Québec hier et aujourd'hui; and, The Apprenticeship of Canada, 1876–1914. He also wrote articles for The Financial Post, International Review, Canadian Forum, and Encyclopædia Britannica

He was an activist with EGALE, a lobby group for gay and lesbian rights, after coming out as gay in the late 1980s. 

Appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1994, he was cited as one of Canada's "most valuable political commentators and respected champions of social justice." He died on December 16, 2012, at aged 83. 

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