Pioneering Canadian broadcaster and gay rights advocate Laurier LaPierre dies at 83

The journalist and academic also lived and worked in Vancouver for two decades

A pioneering figure in Canadian broadcast journalism and gay rights, Canada's first openly gay senator and This Hour Has Seven Days cohost Laurier LaPierre died on December 17. He was 83 years old.

LaPierre was born in 1929 in Lac Megantic, Quebec. He received his PhD in history from the University of Toronto in 1962 and began his career as an academic (which later included being faculty at the University of Western Ontario, Loyola College, and McGill University).

Two years later, he became cohost of the controversial, innovative, and influential CBC current affairs newsmagazine This Hour Has Seven Days. The TV show, which aired from 1964 to 1966, tackled contentious issues ranging from the Vietnam War to white supremacists.

It was in 1966, however, that LaPierre himself became the focus of debate. That year, LaPierre interviewed the mother of Stephen Truscott, a 14-year-old boy sentenced to life in prison for the murder of an Ontario girl, which turned out to be a wrongful murder conviction. After the interview, when LaPierre spoke about a bill to abolish the death sentence, he was seen wiping away tears. He then bore the brunt a backlash from media critics who called him biased and unprofessional. The show was cancelled later that same year, in spite of outcry from viewers.

LaPierre ran for federal Parliament in the Quebec riding of Lachine for the NDP in the 1968 election. After his defeat, he returned to a career in broadcasting and writing.

He later moved to Vancouver, where he lived in the 1970s and '80s. He became host of The Vancouver Show and People Will Talk on CKVU (now Citytv Vancouver), and eventually left the city in 1991 for Ottawa.

During an event on Parliament Hill in March 1988, he came out as gay and became active in gay and lesbian issues. He was particularly vocal about hate crime Bill C-250 (to protect gay people from hate propaganda) in 2004, and also worked as an activist for the Canadian LGBT human rights group Egale.

When Prime Minister Jean Chrétien appointed him to the Senate in 2001, he became Canada's first openly gay senator. He served until retirement at age 75 in 2004.

In addition to gay issues, he also advocated for aboriginal people, cultural organizations, and bilingualism.

He received the Order of Canada in 1994.

He had two sons from a previous marriage and is survived by his partner Harvey Slack.

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A very memorable person during the early days of CKVU. Intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive and elegant.

We need more like that, today. Can't think of one though. ;)
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