John Duggan grew up on an Ontario farm, moved to Ottawa in 1970 and became involved in Gays of Ottawa (GO) in 1974. At GO, John worked tirelessly on the peer-counselling, public education, and political action committees; wrote for GO’s newspaper ( GO Info); helped develop a cable TV show, and organized social activities. In 1979 and 1980, John served as GO’s President and was active in GO’s participation in the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) and in GO’s role as coordinating office of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC).
Over a ten year period, John’s significant contribution to GO’s policies and debates made it one of the most influential voices in the country. He was instrumental in creating effective media strategies to advance our struggle for rights, to reach individual lesbians and gay men, and to promote the concept of lesbians and gay men as a minority community. John’s very public profile greatly contributed to GO’s high credibility.
After a fire destroyed GO’s offices in 1979, John spearheaded the drive to establish a community centre. It opened in 1980 and allowed for increased community events, social activities and activism. In 1982, with partial funding from the City of Ottawa, John became the first full-time employee of a gay and lesbian organization in Canada. For the next two years, John did some of his most valuable organizational work, including the early planning and development of a strategic response to AIDS.
John helped create Ottawa’s first gay registered charity, Pink Triangle Services (PTS). With the creation of PTS, GO’s educational and social services became a separate entity and eventually the GLBT organization that continues to provide services to this day. John was also a founding member of Ottawa’s Abiwin Housing Co-op, one of the first co-ops to provide safe housing for lesbians and gay men.
John Duggan was, undoubtedly, one of the most influential individuals in the early gay liberation movement in Canada. As John himself says: “For ten years, my life revolved around gay liberation. It was intense and totally exhausting, but very exciting and enriching.”
(bio from John Duggan’s induction in the CLGA’s National Portrait Collection)