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‘Thunderhead’ LGBTQ national monument breaks ground in Ottawa

OTTAWA — After a rainy night in Ottawa, the sun broke through Wednesday afternoon ahead of a ceremony to break ground for a national LGBTQ+ monument.

That was no coincidence, Albert McLeod told a crowd gathered under a bridge near the Ottawa River, or the Kitchissippi, as it’s known to Algonquin Peoples.

“Those thunderers came last night and cleared the way for us to be here today — to celebrate being human, and to share that courage and strength,” said McLeod, a two-spirit elder.

The “Thunderhead” monument will mark historic discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community at the hands of the federal government, as well as societal injustices against the community.  

In Anishinaabe teachings, thunderheads are clouds home to the thunderers, beings “whose storms renew the land and make things right,” according to the LGBT Purge Fund, which paid for the monument.

They hope the monument will do just the same when it opens in summer 2025. 

The LGBT Purge refers to a period between the 1950s and mid-1990s when Canada systemically discriminated against LGBTQ members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service. 

It formally ended in 1992 when Canada was initially taken to court, through survivors were compensated through a class action in 2018. The LGBT Purge Fund manages funds from the class action lawsuit and is using $14 million to create the monument.

“It would have gone to victims of the LGBT Purge had they lived to make a claim in the class action lawsuit,” said executive director Michelle Douglas.

“In this way, the monument is a gift to those who never received justice.”

The monument, steps in front of the Ottawa River, was designed in partnership with Indigenous elders, and will be complete with a sacred fire site featuring 13 stones chosen Indigenous members of the LGBTQ+ community in each province and territory.

A column, broken apart by a thunderhead cloud inside, will also be included in the space.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2024.

Alessia Passafiume, The Canadian Press

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