City to consider naming public square after slain LGBTQ activist
Thirty years after the murder of Joe Rose a Montreal man is working memorialize the LGBTQ activist whose death was a turning point for gay rights in the city.
Social worker Matt McLauchlin is planning to present a proposal to the city to turn the area near Frontenac Metro into a public square in Rose’s honour.
“It’s a place that doesn’t have a name yet, it’s a fairly central place,” he said. “I think it’s incumbent on the city to recognize not only our history but the official neglect that played a part in the violence we faced at that time.”
Rose, an HIV-positive gay activist, was 23-years-old at the time of his murder. He was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of four teenagers in 1989 in that same public square.
“His murder really changed the way we fought for things in the Queer community here in Montreal,” said LGBTQ activist Richard Burnett.
At the time much attention was focused on other details of the killing such as the possibility of gang violence and that it occurred in the city’s public transit system.
“I remember reading in the news about somebody who was stabbed to death on the bus, bleeding to death and then slowly the details came out,” said Centre for Research Action on Race Relations Executive Director Fo Niemi. “Slowly there was a physical description, a young male with pink hair.”
Over time more details emerged including that Rose was attacked over his sexual orientation. Niemi said his death resulted in a sea change in how Canadians viewed hate-related crimes.
“If his death meant something it should mean that we should be much more vigilant over hate-related crime,” he said.
Burnett added that it altered how Montreal’s gay community as perceived by the public and by officials.
“It really was a community under siege and Joe was a symbol of the change that started to happen during the crucible years of 1989 to 1994,” he said.
A borough spokesperson said the city will look at the proposal once McLauchlin presents it on Nov. 12.