Title and statement of responsibility area
Bernard Courte fonds
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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)
Dates of creation area
1951- 1991, predominant 1972- 1991 (Creation)
Physical description area
1.13m of textual records
30 photographs: 13 b&w; 17 col.
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Archival description area
Name of creator
Gay activist, teacher, and writer, Bernard Courte was born in Weir, Quebec on June 22, 1949. Located 75 miles north of Montreal, Weir’s population was made up of approximately 100 people, most of whom were anglophones. Courte’s family was one of two francophone families who lived in the town, which forced Bernard Courte to become fluent in english. Growing up, he was told by anglophones to “speak white”. This language based discrimination would later inform his activism. The events of the 1977 Truxx Bar Raid acted as a galvanizing moment in Courte’s life, as he began advocating gay rights, Franco-Canadian rights, and for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. He marched, wrote, and spoke with an infectious enthusiasm and dynamic energy.
At the age of 17, Courte moved to Montreal to attend teacher’s college. After a year of enrollment, Courte quit school and came out through the bar scene. He eventually went back to school and received a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Linguistics from the Université de Québec à Montréal. He also completed a Degree in Education from McGill University. In 1976, Courte started teaching english as a second language at the Cégep Saint Jean sur Richelieu.
Courte was present at the 1977 Truxx Bar Raid. The Raid served as a galvanizing moment in Courte’s life. Shortly after, he became a member of the Association pour les Droits Gais du Québec, a Quebec gay rights association. He went on to contribute to the ADGQ’s publication, Le Berdache. In addition to writing pieces for the publication, he also translated and adapted The Body Politic and other gay news articles from english to french for Le Berdache readers. In 1982, Courte and other co-founders established the new monthly Sortie, a major North American french language gay publication, where he served as editor for 14 months.
Courte was an early champion of AIDS awareness in Quebec. Beginning in 1982 or 1983, he wrote extensively on the disease for publications including Sortie and RG. He also appeared on radio and television to talk about the emerging AIDS crisis. He served as a spokesperson for an AIDS walk-a-thon, which he considered as a second coming out. Courte was involved with the Comité Sida Aide Montréal.
In 1986, Courte relocated to Toronto with his then partner of 18 years, Keith Russell. The move was brought on by Russell’s work transfer. Courte found employment at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. His focus on HIV/AIDS, gay rights, and journalism did not slow down after his move to Toronto. He continued writing for Sortie as their Toronto correspondent and had his own column, La Chronique Courte. Once Sortie folded, Courte went on to write for Xtra! And eventually had his own monthly french column XtraCourte.
Following his move to Toronto, Courte began advocating for the rights of Franco-Ontarians and their need for linguistically and culturally relevant resources and services. This was evident through his work spearheading and coordinating various translation projects with AIDS Service Organizations and gay and lesbian groups. Courte served as a volunteer for the AIDS Committee of Toronto and helped prepare and translate french language flyers and brochures. He was also involved with AIDS Action Now! In 1988, he founded the Équipe Francophone and helped launch the french version of the AAN! Treatment Update newsletter, Traitement Sida in 1989. He served on the AAN! Media Committee. Courte also started a French-language index of medical data relating to AIDS treatment, a resource unique in North America. He helped found a francophone AIDS support group in Toronto, organized safe-sex workshops, and was involved with nine AIDS conferences in six years. Additionally Courte translated material for various other lesbian and gay groups.
His push for access to french language resources and services, extended beyond the lesbian and gay community. He frequently wrote for educational and francophone journals, which included his column À La Page in Orbit, OISE’s quarterly magazine. He often sent articles to L’Express de Toronto- Toronto’s french language weekly paper and served as a consultant at the Centre Médico Social Communautaire, where he prepared french resources. Additionally, Courte served on the Communications Committee of the ACFO- Toronto, the Toronto Chapter of the Ontario French Canadian Association and the Newsletter Committee and Negotiations Committee of the Research Officer’s Union at OISE. As a recovering alcoholic, Courte was involved in gay and lesbian and french Alcoholics Anonymous Groups.
Bernard Courte died of AIDS related complications in Toronto on October 19, 1991.
The records were gifted to The ArQuives in 3 separate accessions. The first accession was made in 1989 by the records’ creator, Bernard Courte. The second and third donations were gifted in 1991 and 1992, by Courte’s long time partner Keith Russell shortly before and after Courte’s death.
Scope and content
The fonds contains records pertaining to the life of gay activist, teacher and writer, Bernard Courte. The records found in the fonds reflect aspects of Courte’s personal life, his career in education, and his fight for gay rights, french language rights, and for the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. The majority of the records were created in Montreal or Toronto, and date from 1972 to 1991. The fonds has been arranged into the following 4 series: Personal Life, Teaching, Activism, and Subject Files. It contains correspondence, coursework, course material, articles penned by Courte, article drafts, meeting minutes, brochures, flyers, and clippings.