Ian Scott was attorney general of Ontario from 1985 until 1990. For the first time he reveals what it was like being gay and living in the closet. The following is excerpted from To Make A Difference: A Memoir, by Ian Scott with Neil McCormick (Stoddart).
a short time after i returned toa short time after i returned to
Toronto from Queen's University in Kingston in 1979, I met a young man, Kim Yakabuski, in a bar. Shortly thereafter, we decided to live together. Kim's father, Paul, owned a hardware store in Barry's Bay, in northeastern Ontario. From 1963 to 1987, he was also a member of the Ontario legislature, one of the rural Tory MPPs who helped keep the Robarts and Davis governments in power.When I first met him, Kim was a physical education student at the University of Waterloo. He was in Toronto for a sports meet the weekend we met. He was lively, a good athlete and, like all his many brothers and sisters, bright and determined. Shortly after we started living together, he went off to Queen's to do a law degree. He would come back to Toronto for weekends and holidays. Though he was much younger than me, we shared a similar outlook. We enjoyed travelling together and had some wonderful trips to exotic locales.
He loved to play tennis, so I had a court built at the farm, and we played many uproarious games. He was much better than I was, but I had no compunctions about giving myself the benefit of line calls, so things tended to even out. Each summer he organized a good-natured tennis competition, usually held at Hanlan's Point on the Toronto Islands. Kim was my junior by some 20 years.
At a time when my personal and professional lives were better than ever, I entered into the ring to make my mark politically. Given the tenor of the times, it meant that Kim would be forced into the background, as, in my estimation, the public was not then ready to deal openly and honestly with homosexuality. In the best of all possible worlds, such discrimination would not exist. But Ontario in 1981 was not ready to deal with the issue, and I saw no reason to make what would have been a futile attempt to change it.
There was much excitement at the prospect of forming a government, and much speculation about who was going to hold what portfolio. I wanted to be attorney general.
There were some concerns about my sexuality. People in my law office knew about my sexual orientation, as did a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. I did not, however, want the issue to be a distraction for the new government. As I was a political neophyte, I thought I should discuss the matter with Robert Nixon. He was a former leader of the party, the son of the last Liberal premier in the province and the man who by all accounts would be given the finance portfolio by David Peterson. I told Bob I was homosexual and asked him if he thought there would be any problems with my being attorney general on that account. He thought the matter should be cleared with the premier, so I arranged to discuss it with David. His response was "So what?"
Taking stock at year-end, after our first six months in office, I was struck by the ups and downs of fortune. At the beginning of the year, I had thought it was hopeles to run for election again. I did it in part because I did not want to appear to be yet another person running away from David Peterson. When the election was first called, as my diary clearly shows, I thought I had no chance of winning.
Then the bottom dropped out of my world.
Kim went to the doctor to see about some swollen lymph glands in his neck and throat. He was tested for HIV as a routine precaution. He tested positive. It was devastating. I rushed off to be tested. I was negative.
Given the sexual lives that we, and many other gay men, had led, it was almost pure chance that determined whether one was lucky or unlucky with respect to exposure to HIV.
Kim was so young to be afflicted. He was doing his bar admission course at the time of his diagnosis. He wasn't out of the closet. His father didn't know he was homosexual, and it didn't seem right to break the news to him about the medical complications. We decided to keep very quiet about it. I thought about resigning, but Kim persuaded me not to.
It was unclear how much good time he would have before fully developed AIDS would appear. Every little cold became a worry. Nothing would ever be the same again.
By 1992, after two years in oppostion, I found myself increasingly disenchanted. Opposition was not where I wanted to be, even though the first time I ran for election it was where I thought I might be. I was very, very lucky. I decided to resign my seat. It wasn't fair to my constituents to continue to represent them if my heart wasn't fully in it.
When I announced my resignation, I said nothing publicly about Kim's illness. It was hard for me to deal with the fact that Kim was wasting away. He went through a number of medical travails. He developed cytomegalovirus, or CMV. Its principal target is the eyes: Kim was virtually blind at the end.
Kim and I both liked to cook, and throughout our relationship we had always split the cooking. Now I made special efforts to cook for him. We always ate at the dining table, with flowers and candlelight. Often, however, Kim couldn't eat much of anything I prepared for him. But I tried and he tried.
By the summer of 1993, it was obvious that Kim was dying. The only question was when death would come.
By the time Kim became ill, his father had died, but his stepmother was still living. There seemed to be no further reason for not publicly acknowledging our relationship. All of Kim's brothers and sisters came to the house to see him. I discussed our relationship with all of my siblings, except for David, who I thought would have the hardest time dealing with it. My sisters and my other brothers all indicated that they knew that I was gay and that they had no problem with it.
David and I had always been competitive. We both practised law. We both built up successful careers doing litigation work. I did more appellate work than he did, but he did more intellectual-property law than I did. It would be hard to find someone who worked harder at the law than David had over the years. We were both benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada, but he was there because he ran for office and got elected by his peers, and I was there (very occasionally, it must be admitted) because I was an ex-attorney general.
For all the similarities in our upbringing and our professional lives, though, there were some fundamental differences between us. On the political spectrum, David would have come down on the small-C conservative side, while I was to the left of liberal. We both liked to drink and argue, and we had many memorable evenings together when the words flowed with the vodka. Despite our respective propensities to talk a lot, I found it extremely difficult to talk to David about anything personal.
In the summer of 1993, David went on a camping trip to the Canadian Arctic with a group of people who regularly went off wilderness camping in some remote but beautiful spot. One night he shared a tent with Peter Lukasiewicz, my old executive assistant. He asked Peter how I was doing. Peter said, "Not too well. You know, Kim is very sick." According to David, that was the first time he had heard Kim's name, although at that point Kim and I had been living together for a dozen or more years.
Once back in Ottawa, David wrote me a letter saying that we had to get together to talk. He had some meetings in Toronto. We arranged to go out for dinner on a Wednesday night. We got drunk again, and again nothing was said about Kim. We booked dinner for the next night. David was going back to Ottawa the next day, so it was now or never. I said that I had to talk about "my lifestyle."
David said, "I know. How is Kim?" And that was it.
At that point, I was 59 years old, and I had just told my 58-year-old brother, who moved in the same legal circles I did, that I was gay. Dr. Freud might have wished to explore why it was such a hard thing for me to do.
Six weeks later, on November 24, 1993, Kim died. The day before he died, he summoned Mrs. DeSousa, our wonderful housekeeper, to our bedroom, and asked her if she saw the angel in the corner of the room. The angel, he said, looked so much like his mother.
The obituary notice that I wrote for him was the first official acknowledgment of our relationship.@@@@@
Copyright © Ian Scott and Neil McCormick. Reproduced with permission of Stoddart Publishing.