With the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community (SOGIC) marking 25 momentous years of leading LGBTTIQ2S advocacy in Canada, I reached out to two former chairs of the OBA’s SOGIC Section Executive – Chris Ellis and Paul Saguil – to get their perspectives on SOGIC's significant accomplishments and evolving challenges over more than two decades.
Chris Ellis is a native of Atlantic Canada who worked at as a litigator at a downtown Toronto firm and volunteered for Pride organizations around the world before settling in Ottawa where he now works for the Federal Government. His involvement in the OBA’s SOGIC Executive – which he became chair of in 2001 and continued to serve, as an executive member, for many years after – was borne out of an already well-established commitment to activism.
"I was heavily involved in student government in law school,” explains Ellis. “I attended the Law Society's joint Pride reception with SOGIC at Osgoode Hall the summer before I started articling. After I expressed to them my willingness to get involved, they brought me into the group's executive. The next year I became chair."
Ellis remembers SOGIC undergoing a lot of outreach and expansion while he was chair, establishing important links with other professional groups and helping to establish SOGIC branches in other provinces. "I remember one very successful event we hosted with queer journalists and physicians. Those links were probably the forerunner of the LGBT organizations for professionals that have appeared in recent years.”
He cites as his single proudest moment establishing a SOGIC section in British Columbia. “We brought a motion to form the branch before the CBA Council and I believe it was unanimously approved,” Ellis recalls. “That branch is thriving to this day."