The Reverend Canon Joyce Barnett

Obituary of The Reverend Canon Joyce E. Barnett





Faithful priest, wise counsellor, loving partner, devoted mother and grandmother, indomitable activist.


Joyce died of sarcoma on November 29, 2021, leaving behind her wife and partner of 38 years, Alison Kemper. Joyce was the mother of Hannah (Maksym Shkvorets) and of Robbie Barnett-Kemper and the adoring Nana to Bobby and Arthur.


She is the daughter of Barbara and the late Victor Barnett, and the sister of Peter (Anna), Linda (Ian), Judy, and Tom (Ingrid). She is survived by dozens of much beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, and a vast network of friends and extended family.


The Rev. Canon Joyce was ordained deacon in 1984. In 1986, in an action reported around the globe, the Bishop of Toronto outed her and inhibited her from functioning as a deacon. After many years of appeals to his successors, Joyce became the first out, partnered, lesbian to be ordained a priest in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto in 2010.  Over the course of her ministry she served in the parishes of St. Margaret, West Hill; St. John, Weston; St. David, Lawrence Avenue, St. Matthias, Bellwoods and Christ Church, Gregory. She worked to make the church a place of justice, safety and welcome for all.


Her talents were wide ranging. In 1980, she released her vocal LP, Right From The Beginning. She was an accomplished baker who threw fabulous birthday tea parties.  She loved to celebrate holidays, both sacred and secular, and encouraged everyone around her to join her.  She was an excellent preacher and a compassionate minister. In younger years she was a master canoeist. Prior to her ordination, Joyce was a trusted counsellor and therapist.


Her lifelong love of the outdoors was shaped at her beloved Camp Tanamakoon, where she made lifelong friends and gained a deep respect for the earth. She returned many times to help out with KinderCamp and connect with a much younger generation of campers.


Joyce was a freedom fighter.  She and Alison were the moving parties on the first case in Canada in which two mothers were permitted to adopt their children.  That decision was a fundamental step on which many successful Charter cases were built in the fight for equality for LGBTQ people.  She and Alison were also members of the group of Applicants who sued Canada for the freedom to marry, resulting in the first court decision in the world requiring full and equal marriage for same-sex couples.  Her commitment and goals for her own family, and her unrelenting commitment to speaking truth to power in order to achieve fair outcomes for all families, sent ripples of equality literally around the world.


Her proudest achievement in life was seeing her children, Hannah and Robbie, grow into loving, strong, spectacular human beings and to know that her grandsons were surrounded by love.


While living with sarcoma throughout the last year, Joyce was supported with the love, prayers and practical help of hundreds of people, many more than Alison and Joyce could ever thank personally. Joyce and her family were able to achieve many more milestones than they ever thought possible: a three-cottage summer, the birth of their second grandson, Joyce’s christening of Arthur, and Alison and Joyce’s thirty-seventh anniversary, celebrated November 24th.


A funeral will be held on Saturday, December 4th at 10:00 a.m. in St. Anne's Anglican Church, Toronto.  Details and link to the livestream can be found at : .


Joyce has asked that in lieu of flowers, you consider giving generously to either:  Kids in Camp, which provides life changing camp experiences to children who can’t afford the fees, or The Indigenous Programs of PWRDF, which support traditional education and cultural activities and establish potable water systems.  Condolences may be forwarded through



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