During the third week of August of every year, we celebrate Capital Pride here in Ottawa! This annual Pride event invites the 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies to join in on diverse celebrations that take place in parks and streets throughout the Nation’s Capital. In honour of this, and to continue highlighting 25 artifacts from within our collections for our 25th anniversary, this week we are featuring a peace button from 1987.
This peace button was distributed during a time of turmoil for the 2SLGBTQ+ community in Canada. The LGBT Purge* began in the 1950s and continued up until the mid-1990s. Canadian civil servants, RCMP employees, and Canadian Armed Forces personnel who were perceived or discovered to be queer faced systematic discrimination, including investigation, questioning, and dismissal because of their sexual orientation, which was considered a “character weakness.” Though survivors launched a nation-wide class action lawsuit against the Canadian government and a settlement was reached in 2018, these traumatic acts continue to impact lives today and reconciliation efforts are ongoing.
This round plastic button with a metal backing depicts a black peace sign over a rainbow-coloured background. Both the peace sign and the rainbow pattern are encircled by a black border around the edge of the whole button. The peace button was designed and copyrighted by Donnelly/Colt Progressive Resources, a family-owned business that has been producing progressive materials since 1975 with the goal of raising awareness and funds to help make the world a more peaceful place.
The Diefenbunker’s 2022 Artist-in-Residence exhibition, featuring the work of Ottawa-based artist Christos Pantieras, explored pertinent topics pertaining to the LGBT Purge and the Cold War. Through a multi-layered installation and a series of reinvented propaganda posters, the exhibition addressed the hidden or underground nature of homosexuality in Canada during the Cold War. The exhibition featured a powerful visual of 9,000 coloured shipping tags, each representing an individual case file of someone affected by the LGBT Purge. Like the peace button, the exhibition served to raise awareness of a troubling time in history and to defend the rights of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
The Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum is proud to be Rainbow Registered and is committed to amplifying diverse and underrepresented stories from Canada’s Cold War history, including those of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
*History has documented this as the LGBT Purge and it is referenced as such here. We acknowledge that the title “LGBT Purge” excludes direct reference to Two-Spirit, Queer, Non-Binary, and Gender Non-Conforming individuals.