The ArQuives Digital Exhibitions

Nancy Nicol Collection

Nancy Nicol Banner

Nancy Nicol (Professor Emeritus, York University) is a documentary filmmaker and activist whose work probes issues of human rights, social justice, and struggles for social change. Nicol’s projects include documentary film as well as critical writing on LGBTIQ+ human rights and social movements in Canada and internationally. Nicol taught in the Visual Arts Department, York University, from 1989 to 2016 and contributed to the founding of Sexuality Studies and the Community Art Certificate programs at York. Her early work spans visual arts, video art, and experimental film. By the mid-1980s her work focused increasingly on documentary starting with the ground-breaking series: The Struggle for Choice (1986) on the history of the pro-choice movement in Canada and followed by films on women and work, labour struggles, reproductive rights, migrant workers rights in Canada, and human rights in Northern Ireland. In the mid-1990s, Nicol began a large body of work tracing 40 years of lesbian and gay rights organizing in Canada from decriminalization in 1969 through the battles for human rights, relationship recognition and equal marriage up to 2009. In 2011, Nicol went on to lead a large international research and participatory documentary project: Envisioning Global LGBT Human Rights, working with 31 community partners based in Canada, Africa, the Caribbean and India. Nicol was inducted into the CLGA National Portrait Collection in 2011.

This collection brings into the public domain a large body of material filmed by Nicol between the 1994 and 2009 and is comprised of footage and full-length interviews that were used in NIcol’s award-winning documentary series From Criminality to Equality [which includes the films: Stand Together (2002), The Queer Nineties(2009), Politics of the Heart / La Politique du Coeur(2005) and, The End of Second Class (2006)]. In addition the collection includes shorts and excerpts from documentaries by Nicol including: Dykes Planning Tykes: Queering the Family Tree (2011, co-directed by Nicol and M.J. Daniel); Proud Lives: Chris Bearchell(2007), Proud Lives: George Hislop (2005), Gay Pride and Prejudice(1994), Making the Political Appear, Black Queer Histories of Organizing (2006), From Russia, in Love(2009), and Pride and Resistance (2007) and other shorts created by Nicol for the CLGA Nicol collection.

The collection brings to life watershed moments in lesbian and gay histories documenting a 40-year period of major historical change in lesbian and gay rights in Canada (1969-2009). The collection includes uncut, in-depth interviews by Nicol with lawyers and litigants in key cases, academic and community experts, parliamentarians, community leaders and activists, as well as footage of key events and demonstrations across Canada. The interviews cover legal, societal and political developments of the history of lesbian and gay rights organizing in Canada, tracing the National Security Campaign’s arrests and surveillance of ‘suspected’ homosexuals in the 1950-1970s; the emergence of gay liberation, Toronto Gay Action, the Community Homophile Association; struggles for human and civil rights, the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario, the Committee to Defend John Damien; opposition to gay rights in the 1970s and 1980s including Anita Bryant and growth of religious right; Gays and Lesbians Against the Right Everywhere; the 1981 Bath Raids, the Right to Privacy Campaign; HIV and AIDS; civil and human rights organizing, the role of the labour movement in the struggle for LGBT rights, LGBT organizing in diverse ethno-cultural communities; the struggle for recognition of same-sex relationship, same-sex pensions, the Campaign for Equal Families; queer parenting rights, the Lesbian Mothers’ Association of Quebec and Dykes Planning Tykes in Toronto; and same sex marriage.

The collection provides an in-depth study of the complex relations between social movement activism, legal and political change, and the capacity of ordinary people to take up extraordinary challenges to overcome injustice. It is an extended case study on the history of a social movement, a movement that emerged out of conditions of criminality and profound social exclusion and which succeeded in making significant advances to overcome discrimination, advance social change and change societal attitudes; a struggle that continues.

Nancy Nicol Collection