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'It’s about visibility': CMHR’s new educator-in-residence to highlight 2SLGBTQIA+ history

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) has added a new educator-in-residence to its ranks to strengthen 2SLGBTQIA+ representation.

Walter Cassidy, an educator, historian and activist, will create programs at the museum to highlight Canadians who fought for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights. The museum says these figures have often had their stories ‘straight-washed’ or erased entirely.

Cassidy hopes to change that.

“For me it’s about visibility, trying to give history to groups that historically have not had that focus,” Cassidy said in an interview on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg.

“We’re talking about heroes and people who fought for human rights."

According to the museum, Cassidy brings decades of experience highlighting queer and trans issues. He led efforts in his school division in Windsor, Ont. to help educate teachers on how to better address queer and trans content in the classroom, how to prioritize the safety and well-being of students and how to educate parents.

A lack of education on 2SLGBTQIA+ history, he says, is leading to a lot of misconceptions in modern times.

CMHR's new educator-in-resident Walter Cassidy is pictured during a Sept. 14, 2023 interview on CTV Morning Live Winnipeg.

“As an educator, students need to see themselves in the curriculum, and I think that’s part of what’s causing a misunderstanding, is that there is not that connection between queer and trans history in the bigger sense. So when you don’t know your history and things happen, you don’t have a context.”

During his two-year term at the museum, Cassidy will also develop educational programs to share stories from the LGBT Purge, which is a focus of an upcoming CMHR exhibit.

The purge was a campaign by the federal government, which saw thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Canadians discriminated against, interrogated, fired or demoted from the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, and the federal public service between the 1950s and 1990s.

Cassidy says the position is a great opportunity to provide much needed visibility.

“Queer and trans people have always been here. Before this place was colonized, it has always been here. That recognition and acknowledgement of that is really important."

- With files from CTV’s Rachel Lagacé and Rachel Aiello Top Stories

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