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Welcome to the Struggle: Blackness, Indigeneity, Abortion - 1969

A documentary film screening for 69 Positions ( with director Nancy Nicol in attendance
Wed. 20 March, 2019, 7PM
School of Image Arts room IMA 307: 122 Bond Street, Toronto (one block west of Church St. and going north from Dundas St.).

Toronto luminary Mikiki will facilitate the screening and Q&A with researcher and artist Elwood Jimmy II and renowned queer documentarian Nancy Nicol.

You Are on Indian Land (1969, 36min, Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell, courtesy of the National Film Board)
Welcome to Africville (1999, 15, Dana Inkster)
The Struggle for Choice, Part 1: Abortion Caravan (1987, 31 min, Nancy Nicol)

69 Positions: Decriminalization in the queer Canadian archive (1965-1981) is an unapologetically political exhibition and screening series inspired by the 50th anniversary of Omnibus 69, an act of Parliament often considered a watershed of legal progress for (male) homosexuals (in private) and for (the start of) legalized abortion in Canada. We would like to draw attention to a counter-narrative of increased criminalization that was concurrent to this shift: namely, of Indigenous autonomy and dissent; the intensification of anti-Black urban oppression; and the multi-decade political struggles to make abortion a right.

Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell’s You Are on Indian Land (1969, 36min, NFB) is a prismatic indigenous-made documentary about border control crack-downs and the Kanien’kéhaka protesters who blocked the international bridge between Ontario and New York State in this crucial account of the “other side” of 1969. In the same year, the destruction of the historically Black Halifax neighbourhood was the subject of queer video art maverick Dana Inkster’s Welcome to Africville (1999, 15). To round out the program, prolific Torontonian documentarian and educator Nancy Nicol’s Struggle for Choice: part 1 (1986, 31 min) informs and infers on how Omnibus 69 did not go far enough for women’s bodily autonomy.

L: Freeze-frame from Nancy Nicol’s Struggle for Choice: Part 1
C: Still from Dana Inkster's WELCOME TO AFRICVILLE
R: Still from Kanentaheron Mitchell’s You are on Indian Land

Many thanks to Ryerson University's Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof, the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Archives (ArQuives), the National Film Board, and the Canada Council for the Arts for supporting this event and on-going project.

MediaQueer thanks our host, Ryerson University, which is located in the Dish With One Spoon Treaty Territory. The Dish With One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabeg and Haudenosaunee establishing a shared territory. We support solidarity with and autonomy for all Indigenous peoples, support we seek to make real in our curation, remuneration, and actions.

69 Positions: Context and “non-text”

“There is no room for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” So said Globe & Mail writer Martin O'Malley in a phrase that would be borrowed by P.E. Trudeau when he announced plans to decriminalize homosexual acts between two men (21 and over) in a sweeping set of legal changes grouped under the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1968-1969. Although it would be decades before the government would apologize for prosecuting and entrapping its own employees and citizens, the 1969 Omnibus remains a watershed moment in the social, political, sexual, and artistic history of this country. Films by Canadian and Québécois artists and documentarians from the years before and after 1969 reveal the world from which this social shift emerged, and how it brought us to where we are now.

To commemorate and problematize the 50th anniversary of this milestone, the Queer Media Database Canada-Québec (hereafter, MEDIAQUEER) has planned an ambitious series of screenings and archival exhibitions entitled “69 Positions: Decriminalization in the Queer Canadian and Quebec Archive” in which we will screen landmark works of film in tandem with archival exhibitions about the history of (and around) this paradigm shift.

The 1969 Omnibus Bill reflected the changing mores of the time, but was far from revolutionary. Gay and lesbian activists would soon have to face a dizzying array of challenges from homophobic police forces and the religious right – as shown in Gary Kinsman and Patricia Gentile’s Canada’s War on Queers (UBC Press, 2010), Thomas Waugh’s collection The Fruit Machine (Duke UP, 2000), and the forthcoming research creation/exhibition project “Afterhours at Madame Arthur” (Julianne Pidduck & Julie Podmore, Never Apart, Montréal, July-September, 2019), as well as Pidduck’s “Reading the Multimedia Archive Surrounding Montreal’s Post-War LGBTQ Bars: A Genealogical Return to Madame Arthur and Il était une fois dans l’Est” (Québec Studies, 60).

Workshops will be held on the second floor of the CLGA (34 Isabella Street, Toronto) on Wednesday evenings from Feb. 20 to March 27 (March 20 and 27 TBC) addressing such themes as the historiography of queer activism 1967-174 (Tim McCaskell, Feb. 20), “The Silent Stacks” a workshop on listening to the archives (experiencing the Sex Equality Anonymous archival remnants with Jamie Ross, Feb. 27), the criminalization of Black nightlife in Vancouver (Deanna Bowen, March 13), a conversation and archival dip into lesbian bar culture (Lulu Wei, March 7) and the unfinished work of abortion legalization, indigenous civil autonomy, and Black economic justice (Mikiki, Elwood Jimmy II, and Nancy Nicol).

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Welcome to the Struggle: Blackness, Indigeneity, Abortion - 1969

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