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The future of medical psychedelics in Canada



Bruce Tobin became interested in psilocybin, the psychoactive compound in magic mushrooms, 10 years ago when he was approached by a woman who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

She was suffering from intense depression, anxiety and hopelessness and the prospect of imminent death.

Fortunately, good treatment sent her cancer into remission. Yet she continued to experience these agonizing psychological symptoms, and conventional medical options proved ineffective in curbing them.

“The cancer was behind her, but there was this constant fear that it was going to return,” said Tobin, a psychotherapist based in Victoria, B.C., who has been practising for 35 years.




After exhausting other options, the woman tried psilocybin mushrooms. In a short period of time, her perspective drastically improved.


“She reported great gains in optimism, spiritual well-being, quality of life and an increased sense of acceptance of her death, whenever that happens,” Tobin said.

Her experience is in line with recent studies that have shown how psilocybin can help terminal cancer patients cope with anxiety stemming from their diagnosis. Other emerging research is showing the potential of psychedelics, some of which have been granted “breakthrough therapy” status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to possibly treat and cure a range of medical concerns from Alzheimer’s to depression to addiction.

Since his patients’ positive mushroom experience, Tobin has devoted himself to fighting for patient access to psilocybin and is willing to take his battle to the courts, similar to the way cannabis patients and advocates fought for access.


Tobin is part of a growing number of health-care providers and researchers around the world who are championing the possibilities of mushrooms and other psychedelics that have been banned in Canada and the U.S. since the 1970s, but are now in the midst of a renaissance.

This fall, the University of Toronto launched the Centre for Psychedelic Studies, which will host the world’s first clinical trials on microdosing psilocybin. It joins a number of other prominent institutions devoting resources to psychedelics research, including other research centres at Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College London.

And in the year since cannabis became legal for recreational use in Canada, the world of psychedelics has also been attracting a number of cannabis executives who see it as the next frontier for therapeutic innovation.

Meanwhile, there are competing forces emerging across the country, differentiated by those who are willing to break the law to provide access to psychedelics and those who see legal channels as the best way forward.


In 2017, Tobin submitted an application to Health Canada requesting a special exemption to the current drug laws that would allow him to procure synthetic psilocybin and provide it to a group of terminal cancer patients who are experiencing end-of-life distress for which other treatments haven’t worked.

“They become depressed, demoralized, and life seems to lose its meaning. There’s no sense of future,” Tobin said.

Including his group of patients, Tobin estimates there are nearly 3,000 people in Canada for whom medical psilocybin could be beneficial.

He’s revised his application to Health Canada a number of times over the years, obtaining letters of support from members of psilocybin research teams across the United States, including from Johns Hopkins University.

But he says it’s been months since he’s heard from the federal health agency. If he gets rejected or doesn’t receive a response, Tobin says he plans to take the matter to court sometime next year.


“We’re talking about several thousands of Canadians that are suffering every day that treatment continues to be withheld from them,” Tobin said. “Treatment delayed is treatment denied.”

Health Canada would not comment on the specifics of the exemption applications that it receives, citing privacy reasons, but said it has received two applications regarding psilocybin, including one from 2017.


Tobin’s arguments in favour of providing psilocybin are similar to those of the medical cannabis advocates whose successful court battles eventually forced Health Canada to create special regimes to allow patients to obtain licences to use and grow cannabis.

Tobin sees these precedents as laying the groundwork for his own case. However, he said he’s not in favour of psychedelics being decriminalized, as was done earlier this year in Denver, Colorado.

I am not supporting the liberalization of psilocybin for spiritual or recreational purposes. I am confining my message to the medical use of psilocybin,” he said.

While Tobin is fighting for access for psilocybin on behalf of his patients, he’s clear that he’s not an “underground therapist.” The patients are responsible for obtaining the substance themselves.

“I’ve always had the sense that if I go to court and I’ve been engaged in illegal activities, that could come back to bite me,” Tobin said. “So I’ve played the squeaky clean role here. But I’m not going to go away.”

Dana Larsen is taking the opposite approach.

The longtime cannabis rights advocate from Vancouver is known for protesting against drug laws by flagrantly violating them, and he has now set his sights on psychedelic mushrooms. While he shares Tobin’s goal of ensuring medical access to psilocybin, he eventually would like to see it fully legalized or decriminalized.

This summer, he opened an illegal mail-order website, The Medicinal Mushroom Dispensary, and plans to open a physical space next year where people can consume psychedelics with supervision.

“Expanding into psychedelics is a really natural progression. The time is right,” Larsen said.

His is one of a number of illicit online mushroom stores in Canada, but Larsen appears to be the only operator who’s open about his operation.

Other dispensaries have been ordered by Health Canada to cease operations altogether. In July, the health agency sent a letter to stating that its operations violated Canada’s drug laws.


“You are required to immediately suspend all activities in relation to psilocybin mushroom and to remove any content from your website related to the sale of a controlled substance,” states the letter, posted on the site.

Health Canada confirmed in an email that the Mungus letter is authentic and that it is one of a total of 6 such letters it has sent to websites offering psilocybin.

For Larsen, who has faced numerous cannabis charges, his mushroom dispensary is part of a broader push to normalize psychedelics and eventually get them legalized.

“The civil disobedience movement was not the only reason cannabis was legalized in Canada, but I don’t think it would have happened without it,” Larsen said. “And I think we’re going to see similar things with mushrooms and psychedelics.”

Larsen’s online venture offers its members a microdosing “regimen,” which, in this case, is a low dose of mushrooms meant to be taken a couple times a week. This is different from taking a dose large enough to induce a trip, which can last several hours.

Like many illegal or so-called “grey market” dispensaries that operated before cannabis legalization, Larsen says he will only sell to people located in Canada who provide proof of a diagnosis or a recommendation for psilocybin from a health-care practitioner.

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This includes providing the substance to minors “if the parents consent in certain circumstances.”

Larsen says the mushroom dispensary’s membership has swelled to more than 1,000 people in the six months since he launched the site.

“It’s growing faster than when I was doing cannabis stuff, starting dispensaries and other projects 10 years ago,” he said. “But cannabis itself was easier to access to regular people, but mushrooms, especially microdoses, you have to know somebody.”



Former cannabis executives and researchers who are delving into psychedelics say that rigorous science and regulations must be pursued first to do justice to the burgeoning industry.

“My argument always has been that cannabis exists everywhere. Ignoring it helps illegal operators. It’s the exact same thing with psychedelics,” said Bruce Linton, formerly the co-CEO of cannabis giant Canopy Growth, who recently joined Toronto-based medical psychedelic firm Mind Medicine Inc.

“The job of the government is not to ignore. In this space, they should regulate, educate and monetize,” Linton, who still has one foot in the cannabis realm, said from a cannabis conference in Las Vegas. “Anybody who is opening illicit activities simply gives a stronger, compelling argument to the government to just smarten up.”


Canopy Growth Corp.’s former co-CEO Bruce Linton welcomes media to a new visitor centre at Canopy Growth’s Tweed facility in Smiths Falls, Ont., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Linton’s company, also known as “Mindmed,” announced in September that it had invested in a molecule based on ibogaine, another psychedelic, to pursue its potential as a form of treatment for opioid addiction.

The company raised more than $6 million in new investment earlier this year, and it’s planning to go public in Canada in 2020.

Though Linton says the current scientific research around psychedelics is exciting and is in many ways more advanced than the science around cannabis, he doubts there will be a flood of cannabis execs like him entering the sector. To him, it requires harder work and more complicated ideas.

“You’re more likely to see researchers come out of the woodwork if there’s a proper way they can present themselves and not have the concern of access to capital or career,” Linton said.

Over the last 40 to 50 years, he said, much of the research has been “done in the shadows.”

“Now you have to be smart and pick jurisdictions where you can get work done and not be out of sight. What you don’t want to say is, ‘I’m going to change the rules in Canada and then do the work.’ No, go do the work and use the work to change the rules.”

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Chinese warship nearly hits U.S. destroyer in Taiwan Strait during joint Canada-U.S. mission – Global News




There is concern mounting Saturday after a Chinese warship was caught on Global News exclusive video coming within nearly 150 yards of the USS Chung-Hoon, a U.S. destroyer that was conducting a joint mission with Canada in the Taiwan Strait. Mackenzie Gray, who is aboard the HMCS Montreal, witnessed first-hand the latest aggressive military move by Beijing and what we know so far.

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Inside the fundamentalist Christian movement that wants to remake Canadian politics –



Warning: This story contains anti-trans comments and deals with suicide. 

On a recent Sunday morning in Waterloo, Ont., pastor Jacob Reaume gripped a lectern and issued a warning to his congregation. 

“A Christless existence leads to the dark, hopeless abyss of death,” he told around 200 people at Trinity Bible Chapel, an evangelical church on the outskirts of the city.


Much of the sermon, delivered last December, was devoted to a trans student at a Christian university in nearby Hamilton who had died by suicide a few weeks earlier. 

“If you’re going to live a lie to the point where you’re willing to mutilate your own body, it’s going to send you into dark despair,” Reaume said.

He then used a slur to refer to trans people.

Trinity Bible is one of the most prominent churches in a fundamentalist Christian movement that has gained momentum in Canada, initially by challenging pandemic public health restrictions.

This movement is now increasingly involved in electoral politics, advocating for conservative social and political policies based on literal interpretations of the Bible.

A person holding a microphone speaks as he holds a book in the other hand.
Jacob Reaume, pastor at Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ont., speaks at a 2021 event in Waterloo Town Square. The image is taken from a video uploaded to the church’s Facebook page. (Free Speech Media/Facebook)

Liberty Coalition Canada, a conservative Christian advocacy group, is trying to raise $1.3 million to recruit hundreds of Christian politicians and campaign staff to run at all levels of government.

In a document marked “please keep classified” that was obtained by CBC News, the group says its ultimate goal is “the most powerful political disruption in Canadian history.”

Working alongside Liberty Coalition Canada are dozens of churches across the country, a number of small media outlets and at least one well-funded think-tank.

While theological and political differences exist among them, many supporters of this movement share a vocal opposition to LGBTQ rights and other social justice causes. 

Several Canadian pastors in the movement also have ties to a controversial branch of evangelical Christianity in the U.S. known as reconstructionism.

Scholars say reconstructionist ideals — often linked to Christian nationalism, the idea that the United States is a Christian country — are influencing how some Canadian evangelicals are responding to issues like legalized abortion, same-sex marriage and added protections for gender minorities. 

“Some Christians in Canada over the last 10 years have begun to push back,” said John Stackhouse, a professor of religious studies at Crandall University in Moncton, N.B.

Pastors defying pandemic rules

Liberty Coalition Canada was formed in early 2021 by Michael Thiessen, a pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Alliston, Ont., who broke with that church over his public opposition to public health measures in place at the time.

Thiessen helped draft a statement — known as the Niagara Declaration — that argued limits on religious gatherings were a violation of church sovereignty.

Nearly 300 mostly Protestant churches and organizations across Canada, including Trinity Bible, signed the declaration. Liberty Coalition emerged as an effort to consolidate that wave of opposition and defend the rights of Christians. 

“One of our concerns over the past couple years is the apparent power grab by the state to exercise absolute authority over all of life,” said Aaron Rock, one of the authors of the petition and pastor at Harvest Bible Church in Windsor, Ont.

Rock declined to be interviewed in person or over the phone. He spoke to CBC News by exchanging voice memos with a journalist.

In a document marked "classified" that was obtained by CBC News, the group says its ultimate goal is "the most powerful political disruption in Canadian history."
In a document marked ‘please keep classified’ that was obtained by CBC News, Liberty Coalition Canada says its ultimate goal is ‘the most powerful political disruption in Canadian history.’ (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

“Where the state crossed the line for us was in their attempt to control the ministry and worship of the Christian church,” he added in a voice memo.

Thiessen, Rock and Reaume were among several pastors in Canada who were charged with defying public health rules by holding large gatherings at their churches in 2020 and 2021 (some of the charges against Rock were later withdrawn).

Reaume’s church celebrated these pastors at an event in Waterloo, Ont., last fall called the Church at War conference, where governments were labelled as the “anti-Christ.”

As governments began to remove pandemic restrictions, Liberty Coalition Canada shifted its focus to controversies that pit progressive and conservative values against each other on issues ranging from gender and sexuality to racism and the environment.

In recent months, the organization has emphasized its opposition to LGBTQ rights. 

It is raising money to support legal action brought by an Ontario high school student who was suspended for organizing a protest against his school’s gender-neutral bathroom policy and who has since appeared at several anti-trans demonstrations.

During a recent Liberty Coalition podcast episode, for example, a host referred to the LGBTQ “world view” as “satanic” and a “godless death cult.”

The host, Kingston, Ont., pastor Andrew DeBartolo, said the “rainbow mafia” was seeking to “brainwash children.” His co-host, Matthew Hallick, described queerness as “sexual perversion.”

Training for candidates

Liberty Coalition Canada claims to have helped 110 Christian candidates in municipal and school board elections last year in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

It says 16 of those 110 candidates were elected in 2022, but this number is difficult to verify because the group did not respond to a request to see a full list of names.

Of the candidates who are known to have had Liberty Coalition’s support, many campaigned against efforts to deal with systemic racism and opposed teaching students about gender minorities. 

CBC News previously revealed Liberty Coalition Canada supplied training in August for several dozen of these candidates.

Harvest Bible Church in Windsor, Ont., taken Dec. 2022.
Harvest Bible Church in Windsor, Ont., was the site of the December conference where Liberty Coalition Canada distributed its ‘classified’ political strategy document. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

The two-day event in Mississauga, Ont., included a talk by Bridget Ziegler, a conservative education activist from Florida.

Ziegler co-founded Moms for Liberty, a lobby group that drove support for state legislation — dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay — that bars schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in younger grades.

The internal Liberty Coalition document obtained by CBC News suggests it is entertaining even grander ambitions for the future.

“Over the next few years, I want to systematically manufacture 10,000 new Christian political candidates across Canada,” says the document, which was written by Michael Clark, director of advocacy for the Liberty Coalition.

Clark also writes that he wants to align Canada’s laws with “biblical principles.” 

The document was available to the roughly 500 participants of a religious conference at Harvest Bible Church in Windsor, Ont., last December.

Liberty Coalition Canada was among several groups that set up booths in the exhibitors hall at the conference. 

Unaware he was speaking with a CBC News journalist, an individual at its booth handed over a copy of the document, saying it was “a plan to help Christians infiltrate the political system.”

Clark declined an interview request from CBC News. 

But Rock is open about the goals of the Christian political movement of which he sees himself a member. 

“We would want to see people elected to office, and installed in the academies of our country, and in our legal system … who aren’t ashamed to consult God’s eternal laws when it comes to the decisions that they make,” he said in a voice memo to CBC News.

Controversial branch of Christianity

Through its podcasts and fundraising efforts, Liberty Coalition Canada appears to be seeking a broader audience for Christian reconstructionism, an austere form of evangelism that seeks inspiration from the Old Testament to guide modern government and culture. 

“What you have with the Niagara Declaration … is a form of Christian reconstruction,” said André Gagné, a professor of theology at Montreal’s Concordia University.

In speeches and podcast appearances, Thiessen, the coalition’s founder, often invokes thinkers (Cornelius Van Til) and concepts (theonomy, presuppositionalism) that are central to the reconstructionist movement.

Pastor Michael Thiessen, left to right, Federal MP Derek Sloan (Hastings-Lennox & Addington) and Maxime Bernier (Leader of the People's Party of Canada) wait to hold a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, April 15, 2021, to discuss there "End the Lockdown Caucus." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Michael Thiessen, far left, founded Liberty Coalition Canada in 2021. He is seen here taking part in a 2021 End the Lockdown Caucus event in Ottawa with Derek Sloan, middle, and Maxime Bernier, right. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He has also participated in several events that are hosted by organizations and figures that experts associate with reconstructionism.

Stackhouse, the Crandall University professor, studies evangelical Christianity and estimates reconstructionists account for a small minority of Canadian evangelicals. 

“It’s on the fairly strong right wing of Calvinism or Reform Christianity,” Stackhouse said. 

“This is what I would call the fundamentalist form of Protestant Christianity.”

Separate from mainstream evangelicals

Reconstructionists stand apart from mainstream evangelicals in Canada who have largely accepted the country’s religious pluralism and are less interested in pushing biblical values in every corner of society.

“We are very conscious that we are a minority,” said Rick Hiemstra, research director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the country’s largest association of evangelicals. 

“Christendom as an idea is past and our relationship with the rest of Canada needs to be different than what it was in the past.”

Experts say reconstructionists, on the other hand, see increasing tolerance for minority rights and other progressive policies as an attack on Christianity that will lead to the decline of Western civilization.

“[Reconstructionists] feel they should preach what they call the entire council of God,” Gagné said. 

“So if God says in the Bible that homosexuality is a sin, they feel they shouldn’t be censored for preaching that.”

Ties to controversial U.S. figures

Scholars usually trace the origins of reconstructionism to R.J. Rushdoony, a religious thinker who rose to prominence in the U.S. in the 1970s.

Rushdoony believed that modern societies should be organized around the Ten Commandments. He advocated capital punishment for homosexuality, adultery and abortion. 

His teachings had a profound influence on the Christian right. He is often credited with convincing other evangelical leaders in the U.S. of the need to oppose legalized abortion, launching the decades-long — and ultimately successful — effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.

More recently, reconstructionism in the U.S. is often associated with Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, and its controversial pastor, Douglas Wilson.

Pastor Doug Wilson of Christ Church works in his office, in Moscow, Idaho, U.S., June, 8 2022. Picture taken June, 8 2022. REUTERS/Matt Mills McKnight
Doug Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, works in his office in 2022. (Matt Mills McKnight/Reuters)

Wilson preaches what one scholar has called “extremely muscular Christianity,” which champions traditional models of masculinity and calls on believers to build their own parallel society to avoid the evils of modern secular culture.

“[In] his most recent writing, Wilson has no qualms about describing his goal as ‘theocracy,'” writes Crawford Gribben, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast, in his 2021 book Survival and resistance in evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest.

Wilson’s ideal society, according to Gribben, would be run along biblical lines: same-sex marriage and abortion would be illegal; men would be in charge and women would be at home with the children.

Wilson is also known for having romanticized slavery in his earlier writings and denigrates the LGBTQ community. Last year, he called trans people “mentally ill.”

His church in Moscow operates its own school system and has extensive publishing and media interests. Its stated goal is to make Moscow “a Christian town,” a project that has attracted at least several hundred people to migrate to the area.

Looking for Canadian support

Members of the Liberty Coalition may not share that goal, but they have visited Moscow and do maintain ties with leaders of Wilson’s church. The coalition’s podcasts are hosted by a website run by members of the Christ Church community.

Gabriel Rench, a prominent member of the Christ Church community, attended the Church at War conference at Trinity Bible. Reaume, in turn, preached at Christ Church earlier this year.

Wilson has encouraged Canadian Christians to follow his lead.

“Jesus Christ commanded Christians in Canada to have as the direct object of all their missionary endeavours the evangelization and conversion of Canada,” Wilson said in 2019. 

“So the goal is for Canada to become Christian. And, if you know your history, for Canada to become Christian again.”

Wilson made the comments during an event at the Ezra Institute, a conservative Christian think-tank in Grimsby, Ont.

Christ Church Pastor Doug Wilson, center, and Latah County Commission candidate Gabriel Rench, center, sing a hymn over the noise from counter-protesters playing drums during "psalm sing" on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020, outside city hall in Moscow, Idaho. Church members were protesting against a city public-health order that requires people to either socially distance or wear a face mask in public. Rench was arrested for violating the public-health order at a similar event on Wednesday.(Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News via AP)
Doug Wilson, left, and Gabriel Rench, centre, sing a hymn over the noise from counter-protesters playing drums on Sept. 25, 2020, outside city hall in Moscow, Idaho. Church members were protesting against a city public health order that required people to socially distance or wear a face mask in public. (Geoff Crimmins/The Moscow-Pullman Daily News/The Associated Press)

The institute is located in a mansion on a 9.7-hectare gated property, where it hosts regular talks, conferences and training sessions, many of them headed by the institute’s founder, Joseph Boot. It also publishes books, a magazine and its own podcast.

“The Ezra Institute [and] Joe Boot’s own work do represent Christian reconstruction,” said Stackhouse, pointing to Boot’s PhD studies and published work as evidence.

On social media and in his writings, Boot has made a number of anti-LGBTQ statements, including comparing gender-affirming care to “slavery” and claiming that trans athletes are “pretending.”

As part of the Ezra Institute’s activities, it is affiliated with a number of radical Christian thinkers in the U.S., such as Jeff Durbin, an Arizona pastor who believes women should be charged with homicide if they have an abortion, even if that means facing the death penalty.

Another institute fellow, Jeffery Ventrella, works for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal advocacy organization that is considered an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The ADF, for its part, denies it is a hate group, saying on its website that it believes “all people are made in the image of God and that everyone is worthy of dignity and respect.”

As a registered charity, the Ezra Institute operates mainly through donations. Among its largest donors is a charitable foundation operated by John Hultink, founder of the online book wholesaler Book Depot, based in Thorold, Ont.

Since 2014, the Hultink Family Foundation has given the institute close to $6 million, according to Canada Revenue Agency filings.

A screen grab from Youtube. On the left is Joe Boot of the Ezra Institute and the right is Jeff Durbin.
A screen grab from a 2018 video shows Joe Boot, left, appearing on a show hosted by pastor Jeff Durbin, who is listed as a fellow of the Ezra Institute in Grimsby, Ont. (YouTube)

The current CEO of Book Depot, Wilf Wikkerink, sits on the Ezra Institute’s board of directors.

In an email to CBC News, Book Depot said there are no financial connections between the company and the Hultink Family Foundation or the Ezra Institute. 

“Book Depot sells books, and the religious affiliations of our team members and corporate directors in no way affects our core belief that every single person has inherent worth and dignity, despite opinions offered by some in the media that may indicate the contrary,” the statement said.

CBC News provided Hultink, who is listed as a director and vice-president of Book Depot, with an opportunity to respond to a list of questions.

Hultink did not respond to those questions. He replied with a statement that questioned the fairness of CBC News, the intentions of the journalist and whether the radio documentary that accompanies this story is an “exercise in anti-Christian hostility.” The statement can be viewed in its entirety here.

A lawyer representing Hultink later sent a further email to CBC News, saying his client “has never professed or upheld Christian reconstructionism as a theology.” 

The Ezra Institute said it was unable to accommodate CBC News requests to tour its Grimsby facility or speak with a representative.

A photo taken from the Ezra Institute website of the think tank's facility in Gimsby, Ont.
The Ezra Institute is located in a mansion on a 9.7-hectare gated property in Grimsby, Ont. ( Ezra Institute website)

In a statement, the institute said it advances the “unchanging spiritual teachings” of the Bible on marriage and human sexuality.

According to the institute, these teachings include that “human beings were made male and female” and that marriage between a man and woman is the only permitted “form of human sexual intimacy.”

Rock, who is also a fellow at the Ezra Institute, framed his own vocal opposition to the LGBTQ community as an act of “love.” 

“For me to permit you to, let’s say, live a lie or to believe something that isn’t true, because I don’t want to ruffle your feathers — [that] is the antithesis of love. That’s actually an act of hatred,” he said in a voice memo to CBC News. 

Amping up conservative populism

While candidates backed by Liberty Coalition Canada have not had much electoral success so far, there are signs that hardline conservative Christians are growing more confrontational in Ontario, much to the alarm of LGBTQ groups. 

“There’s been a strong, and I believe a successful, attempt to really limit the growth of LGBTQ+ communities in [Hamilton], influenced by the religious right,” said Jyss Russell, co-founder of speqtrum, one of that city’s few LGBTQ advocacy groups. 

In December, several dozen people huddled together outside Hamilton’s city hall to celebrate the life of Bekett Noble, the trans student who died by suicide and whom the pastor at Trinity Bible Chapel mentioned in his sermon.

Drag performer Aimee Yonce makes her way to the National Arts Centre (NAC) ahead of a 'Drag Story Time' event hosted by Capital Pride and the Ottawa Public Library in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby
Drag Story Time events across the country have been targeted by anti-LGBTQ protests in recent months. Drag performer Aimee Yonce is seen making her way to the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Feb. 8. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Noble had been studying at Redeemer, a Reformed Christian university in nearby Ancaster, Ont., where they ran an unofficial group for LGBTQ students.

“Why a Christian university would have a group for LGBTQ+ students is beyond me,” Reaume, the pastor at Trinity Bible, said in his December sermon.

LGBTQ groups feeling vulnerable

Noble’s death shook many in Hamilton’s LGBTQ community, even those who didn’t know them personally. It came at a moment when the community was feeling particularly vulnerable, Russell said.

LGBTQ advocates have been critical of the city’s willingness to co-operate with socially conservative Christian organizations while their own organizations have long struggled to secure consistent funding. 

Hamilton’s LGBTQ community says it is also dealing with an increase in public displays of hate against its members.

Self-described street evangelists disrupted Pride events in 2018 and again in 2019, when clashes with counter-protesters led to several injuries and arrests. 

In recent months, Hamilton and the surrounding area have seen a number of anti-drag protests.

The Canadian evangelicals inspired by reconstructionism are not responsible for most of these incidents, but they have allied themselves with the current wave of social conservative populism.

Both Thiessen and Rock took part in trucker convoy protests last year. This year several signatories of the Niagara Declaration have participated in, and organized, anti-drag demonstrations. 

Jyssika Russell, co-founder of speqtrum Hamilton. Photo taken Dec. 11, 2022 in Hamilton.
‘People are trying to force us to go underground, just like we were underground before,’ said Jyss Russell, co-founder of speqtrum, an LGBTQ advocacy group. (Jonathan Montpetit/CBC)

Given the electoral ambitions of groups like Liberty Coalition Canada and the financial resources of sympathetic conservative Christian organizations, LGBTQ advocates worry they are ill-equipped to confront the backlash against their community. 

“People are trying to force us to go underground, just like we were underground before,” said Russell.

Noble’s death, Russell said, reminded her of why she originally got involved in activism. But it also prompted her to think about the broader structures behind the existing opposition to anti-LGBTQ rights in Canada.

“There is a whole other piece: all of those people that are propping up these institutions; these people that are funding these institutions; these people that are tithing to these institutions; the fact that these institutions are not taxed despite their actions,” she said.

“How are these mechanisms silencing us?”

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People told to evacuate Centennial Lake area west of Ottawa due to forest fire –



The Township of Greater Madawaska in eastern Ontario said people with homes around Centennial Lake have been asked to leave because of a forest fire that started Sunday afternoon.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the fire broke out shortly after 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

The township said in a news release late Sunday night its fire department was called to a fire “located on Centennial Lake which then expanded to shore.”


“Our team in co-ordination with the OPP have evacuated the surrounding areas of seasonal residents with a 24-hour evacuation notice,” the township said.

Residents who need help with the fire can call the township from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 613-752-2222 and send an email after opening hours.

  • If the power or data on your device is low, get updates on CBC Lite. It’s our low-bandwidth, text-only website.

The province has a fire ban in place for Renfrew County. It and all surrounding counties except for Ottawa have an extreme fire risk, the highest level on Ontario’s four-level scale.

Ottawa, which isn’t in one of these Ontario fire regions, has its own ban. Quebec has restricted access to some forests and parks.

Centennial Lake is approximately 50 kilometres west of Calabogie and 170 kilometres west of downtown Ottawa.

Smog warnings, advisories

Environment Canada says smoke from forest fires in Ontario and Quebec is causing poor air quality in Renfrew County and some surrounding areas.

Communities north and east of Gatineau, Que., have a smog warning.

This means people with respiratory conditions or heart disease should avoid intense outdoor physical activity while a smog warning is in place, it says.

People in smoky areas should be wary of exerting themselves too much in lower air quality and consider keeping windows closed, running HEPA filters and wearing a well-fitted N95-type mask to filter out particles from smoke.

Ottawa had record-breaking heat last week and hasn’t recorded any rain at its international airport since May 24.

This comes after significant spring flooding along some parts of the Ottawa River earlier in spring because of the amount of snow over the winter, then that melt meeting a surge of rain in late April.

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