Brent Hawkes

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Brent Hawkes

Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes.jpg
Hawkes in 2006
Born (1950-06-02) June 2, 1950 (age 73)
Alma mater
Years active1978-2017
John Sproule
(m. 2006)
ChurchMetropolitan Community Church
Congregations served
Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto

Brent Hawkes, CM ONB (born June 2, 1950) is a Canadian clergyman and gay rights activist.

Early life and education[edit]

Hawkes was born in Bath, New Brunswick to a Baptist family.[1] Hawkes earned Bachelor of Science (1972) and Bachelor of Education (1973) degrees from Mount Allison University, before working as a teacher in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley in the later 1970s.[2] He then earned Master of Divinity (1986) and Doctor of Ministry (2001) degrees from Trinity College, an Anglican institution at the University of Toronto.

Religious career and activism[edit]

Hawkes was appointed as senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, a church openly affirming for LGBT parishioners, in 1978 to succeed Bob Wolfe.[3]

Hawkes has served on the advisory committee of PrideVision TV[4] and served on the board of directors for advocacy group Egale Canada. In addition to his advocacy work on LGBT issues, he has supported anti-racist initiatives, drawn attention to poverty and poor housing, and advocated the ordination of female priests.

Hawkes at Pride Week in Toronto in 2010

On January 14, 2001, Hawkes gained national attention by performing a wedding ceremony for two same-sex couples at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto.[5] Although city clerks would not issue marriage licenses for same-sex marriages at this time, Hawkes employed the alternative provided in Ontario law for regular church attendees to publish official banns for three consecutive weeks, and thereby conducted a legal marriage without requiring prior government permission.[6] In the spirit of the banns as a public opportunity for interested parties to raise legal objections, the church also issued a press release in late 2000 announcing its intentions. The government of Jean Chrétien did not endorse the marriages, although Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson sent a personal letter of support. The city clerk refused to register the record of marriage, leading to a court battle. The church sued the city, the province, and the federal government. On July 12, 2002, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the marriages performed by Hawkes in January 2001 were legal, but stayed its decision pending a possible appeal, and on June 10, 2003, the Court of Appeal for Ontario declared the common law definition of marriage as "invalid to the extent that it refers to "one man and one woman" in the ruling of Halpern v. Canada, immediately striking down all barriers against same-sex marriage in the province.[7]

Hawkes officiated the state funeral of Jack Layton on August 27, 2011, at Roy Thomson Hall.[8] A fellow New Democrat, he spoke highly of Layton, who had touched millions of Canadians with his sudden death. In the end, he thanked Jack Layton for his work with the gay community and HIV/AIDS, issues the NDP leader had championed when they were not popular.

He retired as pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in fall 2017, and was succeeded by Jeff Rock.[9]

Political career[edit]

Hawkes briefly entered political life in the mid-1990s. In the Ontario provincial election of 1995, Hawkes ran as a candidate of the social-democratic New Democratic Party in the riding of St. George—St. David, which has a large LGBT community. Running in protest against the Bob Rae government's handling of the failed Equality Rights Statute Amendment Act of 1994, he finished a strong third with 9,672 votes – fewer than one thousand votes behind the winner, Progressive Conservative Al Leach. Hawkes's strong showing played a major role in defeating incumbent Liberal Tim Murphy.

Personal life[edit]

Hawkes lives in Toronto with John Sproule, his partner of more than forty years. They married on March 7, 2006.

Sexual assault allegations[edit]

On February 1, 2016, Hawkes was charged in the Provincial Court of Nova Scotia with indecent assault and gross indecency for an alleged sexual assault against a minor between 1974 and 1975 when Hawkes was a teacher in Nova Scotia.[2][10] Hawkes pleaded not guilty, and was acquitted of all charges on January 31, 2017, with the judge ruling there were "significant inconsistencies in the testimony of the witnesses".[11][12]

Honours and awards[edit]

In 2009, Hawkes received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree for his continuing work in activism and human rights in Canada from York University.[13] In 2010, Hawkes was presented with an honorary Doctorate of Laws from Mount Allison University,[14] and in 2011 received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Trinity College, Toronto.[15]

Hawkes was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada by Governor General Michaëlle Jean in 2007 for his achievements as "a champion of human rights and social justice for decades" and was formally invested into the Order in a ceremony on February 22, 2008.[16]

In 2012, Hawkes was named one of the "500 most influential gay men in the world" by the European gay magazine Mate; and in 2013 he was inducted into the Q Hall of Fame, as an individual who made significant contributions to LGBT human rights.[17]

Hawkes has been the recipient of the following awards:


  1. ^ a b "Gay rights leader cherishes his New Brunswick roots". The Telegraph-Journal, June 28, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes denies Nova Scotia sex charges". The Chronicle Herald. The Canadian Press. February 2, 2016. Archived from the original on 14 November 2017.
  3. ^ "MCC Conference names new Toronto Pastor". The Body Politic, Jun/Jul78, Issue 44, p8.
  4. ^ "From adversaries to allies on gay rights in Toronto". Toronto Sun. Archived from the original on 2021-01-16. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  5. ^ Nancy Nicol (2006). The End of Second Class. Event occurs at 0:00:14. I present to you Elaine Vautour, Anne Vautour, Joe Varnell, Kevin Bourassa: partners in life, duly married in the eyes of God, and in accordance with the laws of our land.
  6. ^ Record of marriage Archived 2006-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, signed by Hawkes, for one of the couples married. Note the preprinted "Banns No."
  7. ^ Court of Appeal for Ontario
  8. ^ Bradshaw, James (24 August 2011). "A month in the works, Layton's funeral meant to inspire". The Globe and Mail. Toronto ON. Retrieved 17 March 2021.
  9. ^ "Rev. Jeff Rock to lead Toronto LGBTQ congregation" Archived 2017-07-19 at the Wayback Machine. RDNews Now, July 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Hager, Mike (February 2, 2016). "Toronto pastor denies allegations of sex crimes in Nova Scotia". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  11. ^ Lalani, Azzura (January 31, 2017). "Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes acquitted of sex charges". Toronto Star. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  12. ^ "Toronto pastor Brent Hawkes found not guilty of sex crimes in Nova Scotia". CBC News. January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
  13. ^ "Rev. Brent Hawkes receives honorary degree for LGBT social activism". File: York's Daily Bulletin online at 22 October 2009. Accessed 30 October 2009.
  14. ^ "Honorary degree recipients". 2013-11-05. Archived from the original on 2013-08-06.
  15. ^ "Community leaders awarded honorary degrees". Anglican Journal. 2011-05-09.
  16. ^ "Order of Canada: Brent Hawkes, C.M.,LL.D., D.Min". Governor General of Canada. Office of the Secretary of the Governor General. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  17. ^ "Inductees". Q Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2014-03-01. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  18. ^ a b "Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes C.M." Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  19. ^ "The Golden Jubilee Medal: Hawkes, Rev. Dr. Brent". Governor General of Canada. Office of the Secretary of the Governor General. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  20. ^ "Access, Equity and Human Rights Awards: 2003 recipients". City of Toronto Awards and Grants. Archived from the original on 4 May 2004. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  21. ^ "Pioneer of Human Rights Award to be presented to Rev. Brent Hawkes". New Brunswick Human Rights Commission. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Clarity Award". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  23. ^ Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (3 February 2012). "Media Advisory - Lieutenant Governor Presents Diamond Jubilee Medals". CNW Group. Retrieved 8 June 2014.

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