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Former Ontario PC cabinet minister Keith Norton dies

Keith Norton, a gay man and former Ontario PC cabinet minister, died Sunday night at the Toronto General Hospital, reports the Globe and Mail. He was 69. 

Keith Norton in 1996. (Tony Fong photo)

From the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives:

"Following careers as an educator and a lawyer, Keith Norton served in
the Ontario Legislature from 1975 to 1985. From 1977 to 1985 he held Cabinet
posts in Community and Social Services, Environment, Health and Education,
Colleges and Universities. From 1985 to 1992 he was a principal in several
private sector enterprises involving water purification technology, publishing
and consulting in Public Policy and Government Relations.

Mr. Norton was a member of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a quasi-judicial
tribunal established under the Canadian Human Rights Act from 1992-1996.
He served as its president from 1992-1995.

On July 18, 1996 he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human
Rights Commission."
Norton left the OHRC in 2005.

Norton attempted to make a political comeback in the 1990 Ontario general election, running in the riding of St George-St David, which includes Toronto’s gay village. He placed third behind Liberal Attorney General Ian Scott and the NDP candidate.

CBC reported on Norton coming out during the 1990 campaign – watch the video online. In that video, Kyle Rae — who was elected to Toronto city council in 1991 — criticized Norton for not coming out earlier. “Keith Norton is representing a party that has a long legacy of being homophobic,” Rae said in 1990. “We could have used an openly gay minister of health saying that our community is being grossly discriminated against… and he didn’t.”

During his time as chief commissioner of the OHRC, Norton pushed for gay rights, particularly around legal recognition for same-sex couples.

In 2000, the OHRC released a policy on sexual orientation, following the passage of Ontario’s Bill 5 and the Supreme Court’s ruling in M vs H. The same year, the OHRC released a policy on gender identity, which Norton said confirmed “what courts across the country
have been saying for some time: transgendered people have the right to
equal treatment without discrimination.

Norton also spoke against homophobia in private schools, opposing the Conservative government’s granting of tax credits to parents whose children attend those schools. At a 2002 press conference, Norton said he was “deeply troubled by the lack
of any regulatory requirement for private schools to comply with the
provincial human rights code.”

In 2003, Norton addressed the federal justice committee in support of same-sex marriage.

In 2004, Norton criticized then-justice minister Irwin Cotler for suggesting that public marriage commissioners should be allowed to refuse to marry same-sex couples. 

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