New Canadian coin marking 50 years of LGBT-rights progress features design by Vancouver's Joe Average

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      A new Canadian loonie has been released that acknowledges 50 years in the struggle towards LGBT equality in Canada.

      At an event at LGBT community centre The 519 in Toronto today (April 23), the Royal Canadian Mint unveiled and released a new one-dollar coin “commemorating 50 years of progress in recognizing the rights of LGBTQ2 Canadians”.

      The coin marks the Canadian government’s decriminalization of homosexuality between two consenting people 21 years or older in 1969.

      The coin features the work of Vancouver artist Joe Average, who has supported LGBT and HIV communities throughout his career.

      On the coin, two intertwined faces are accompanied with the words “Equality Égalité”. The two faces reflect gender fluidity and the gender spectrum, which “may belong to two individuals or they may represent different aspects of one's identity”, according to a news release. 

      The event was attended by Minister of Finance Bill Morneau and Randy Boissonnault, special advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues.

      "For the past 50 years and beyond, Canadians have fought for their right to love, marry, start a family and live openly as their most authentic selves," Morneau stated in a news release. "The Equality coin recognizes their triumphs and encourages all of us to build a better, more inclusive Canada—because like the coin itself, the more equality we have in Canada, the richer we all are."

      Boissonnault added that the launch offers "an opportunity to reflect on a landmark event in our country's history, and a reminder of the progress still to be made as we work toward inclusion and equality for all LGBTQ2 Canadians”.

      However, some Canadians are regarding it as a cause for criticism rather than celebration.

      A group of historians and activists have critiqued the coin as perpetuating a myth that LGBT equality is a result of the federal government’s decisions, and that LGBT people continued to face, and still continue to face, issues of inequality in Canada.

      In addition, a social conservative group held a protest at the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa on April 12 and delivered a petition against the coin.

      Despite the criticism, a limited mintage of three million coins will enter general circulation and will be available through public coin exchanges in Canada. A special collector’s edition version, made with pure silver and featuring the design in full colour, is also being released in a limited mintage of 15,000 coins.

      Royal Canadian Mint
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.