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History of Canadian Pride

When asked about the history of pride, often the first thing that comes to people's minds are the Stonewall Riots. Canada, however, has it's own rich history and turning points in the struggle for and eventual celebration of LGBT rights.

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Annual LGBT2Q+ visibility & awareness dates.

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The most well known of these are the Toronto raids which lead to riots that turned into what is today, a vibrant pride festival. It was not the only turning point in our history, so we present to you a brief timeline of notable events in the history of Pride in Canada. Our history is expansive and this is not, by any means, a comprehensive list.

Milestones in the history of Pride across Canada

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Decriminalization of homosexuality

On May 14, 1969 Canada decriminalized homosexual acts between consenting adults with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act first introduced in December 1968. It receives royal assent on June 27. One day before the Stonewall Riots took place in New York.

1971 First Gay Rights Protest

On August 28, 1971, roughly 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and the surrounding areas gathered in the pouring rain at Parliament Hill for Canada’s First Gay Liberation Protest and March. They presented a petition to the government with a list of ten demands for equal rights and protections.

Simultaneously, another much smaller group of roughly twenty gay activists demonstrated at Robson Square in Vancouver.

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Media Credit: Ottawa Journal

Pride Week 1973 Emergence and shift to gay liberation

Pride Week 1973 was a national LGBT rights event held in August 1973 in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Programming included an art festival, a dance, picnic, a screening of a documentary and a rally for gay rights that occurred in all the participating cities.

This event represented the shift from the homophile movement into the gay liberation movement, showing the emergence of the concept of gay pride.

This event is often considered the first pride parade in Vancouver.

Homosexuality no longer considered a ‘disorder’

Homosexuality is removed as a "disorder' from the Diagnostics and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders.

Tipping Point: The Brunswick Four

In January, The Brunswick four are arrested at the Brunswick Tavern in Toronto. Some historians believe that the arrest and its consequences was a key incident ushering in a more militant gay and lesbian liberation movement in Canada, much as the Stonewall Inn Riots politicized gays and lesbians in the United States.

This was also one of the first occasions that a gay or lesbian topic received extensive press coverage in Canada. The women brought charges against the officers subsequently for verbal and physical police harassment, however the officers were acquitted due to their switching their hats and badge numbers making them unable to be accurately identified.

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Montreal Olympic 'Cleanup'

From Feb 1955 to June 1976, Police raids ramp up at Club Baths, Neptune Sauna and across gay and lesbian bars in Montreal's Stanley Street gay village, this event was widely perceived as mayor Jean Drapeau's attempts to "clean up" the city in advance of the 1976 Summer Olympics.

"In late May and early June, all the baths in Montreal were closed…For a lot of men in Montreal, their first experience of the great Olympic ‘clean-up’ was the sight of a policeman’s axe crashing through the door of their room at the baths."

The Body Politic

An organization called the Comité homosexuel antirépression/Gay Coalition against Repression (CHAR) was set up with representatives from various Montreal gay groups bringing together French and English-speaking activists, lesbians and gay men, with sections of the left and the feminist movements. On Jun 19, more than 300 gays, lesbians and supporters joined in one of the largest demonstrations up to that point. It was organized by CHAR and protested pre-Olympic cleanup raids. This resistance to the Olympic ‘cleanup’ set the stage for the massive protest which would occur in 1977.

Montreal Bathhouse Raids

On the night of Oct. 22, 1977, Montreal police raided Truxx and Le Mystique, two gay bars on Stanley St. This raid was more of a military operation then a normal police intervention: 50 police officers, wearing bulletproof vests with guns (including machine guns) drawn, went in and arrested 146 patrons, all homosexual men, as part of what was at the time the biggest mass arrest since Trudeau had declared the “War Measures Act” during the October Crisis.

The men who were arrested were crowded into holding cells for more than eight hours, and forced to take venereal disease tests. They were also forbidden from calling their lawyers.

The very next day, 2,000 people took to the streets, blocking the corners of Ste. Catherine St. W. and Stanley St. to protest what had happened on the previous night. Police and protestors naturally clashed. In an effort to get the crowd to disperse, police rode their motorcycles into the crowd, clubbing protestors, who in turn threw beer bottles at the police.

Quebec adds Sexual Orientation to the Human Rights Code

Signed in law on December 16, 1977 - Quebec includes sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code, making it the first province in Canada to pass a gay civil rights law. The law makes it illegal to discriminate against gays in housing, public accommodation and employment. The amendment was in response to an especially brutal police raid on the Montreal gay bathhouse called Truxx. The raid was widely publicized and threatened the newly elected Parti Québécois’s image as a progressive party.

By 2001, all provinces and territories took this step except Alberta, Prince Edward Island and the Northwest Territories.

Pickets against CBC Halifax

On Feb 17th 1977 Nova Scotia’s gay and lesbian community came together for its first public protest, picketing CBC headquarters on the corner of Sackville and South Park Streets over the local station’s refusal to run a public service announcement advertising the Gay Alliance for Equality’s Gayline. Around 21 people marched out front of the CBC building.

Two days later, on February 19, activists in five major Canadian cities (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver) held pickets to make it the first nationally coordinated gay and lesbian demonstration. The CBC head office in Toronto would later enshrine into national policy the rejection of PSAs from gay and lesbian organizations.

Members of GAE convinced the Dalhousie Gazette to lead a nationwide boycott of CBC advertising by university student papers until, many years later, they finally changed their position.

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Media Credit: Robin Metcalfe

New Immigration Act no longer prohibits Homosexuals

The Immigration Act of 1976 came into effect on 1 April 1978. This new amended Act lifted a ban prohibiting homosexuals from immigration. There was a shift in language in this particular legislative act, this was created to state who was welcome in Canada instead of who should be prevented from immigrating. The Act was positively regarded as a progressive piece of legislation and received broad support from the parliamentary parties.

Buddies in Bad Times stage first production

Buddies in Bad Times, Canada's oldest surviving theatre company dedicated to LGBT theatre, is launched by Matt Walsh, Jerry Ciccoritti and Sky Gilbert in 1978

In Sept 5-9th 1979, their first production was Gilbert’s Angels in Underwear staged in an old brewery, Dream Factory 496 Queen Street East

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Vancouver’s First Pride Parade

Vancouver's earliest Pride celebrations began when the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE) organized a picnic and art exhibit in Ceperley Park. The August 1973 edition of GATE's newspaper, Gay Tide, features coverage of "Gay Pride Week '73.", and was followed shortly thereafter by their first Pride parade in 1978.

It would not be until 1981 that there would be an ‘official’ Pride Parade. After years of being turned down by the city, a new municipal government was elected under the leadership of Mike Harcourt who followed through on election promises to the queer community for a proclamation and parade permit. In the lead up to the parade, hate literature was handed out in Burnaby and Port Moody and the queer community faced heightened harassment but that didn’t stop more than 1,500 attendees from showing up.

"We told people if they were afraid of coming out but wanted to come out, they could wear paper bags with holes in it for eyes.A few people took up the offer but most didn't."
David Myers
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Canada first official Pride marches & festivals

Montreal and Vancouver become the first Canadian cities to host an official Pride march and festival.


Edmonton's first official Pride Festival

Edmonton holds their first ever Pride Festival, by 1983 the festival grew to a weeklong event.

Tipping Point: Operation Soap

On Feb. 5, 1981 Toronto police stormed four gay bathhouses in the city as part of what they called "Operation Soap," and arrested just under 300 men. For the majority, charges were later dropped or dismissed..

Rallies were held in response to the injustice and to this day it is often referred to as Canada’s Stonewall.

To this day, "Operation Soap" is one of the largest mass arrests in Canada and it was 35 years later in 2016 that Toronto's police chief formally apologized for the raids.

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Media Credit: Queer Events

Pisces Raids in Edmonton

Forty members of the Edmonton Police service, six RCMP officers, and two crown attorneys stormed the Pisces Health Spa, a bathhouse used by gay men, on May 30, 1981, at around 1:30 AM. In the raid, 56 men were arrested and charged while an additional six men, owners and employees, were charged with being keepers of a common bawdy house. A local TV station ran the names of those found at Pisces outing the men publicly. In response to the raid, over 100 people rallied at city hall on June 3 to condemn the raid as a violation of civil rights, as well as a waste of money.

The raid drew groups within Edmonton’s gay community together and made it more vocal and public. It was also noted that the Edmonton police consulted with Toronto police on how to execute the raids. The outrage that Edmontonians felt after the raids led to a more accepted and public LGBTQ community and the lack of tolerance towards infringements of civil liberties in Edmonton.

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Dykes in the Streets

On October 17th 1981, the now-defunct organization Lesbians Against the Right held a "Dykes in the Streets" march in Toronto, Ontario, with lesbian power, pride, and visibility as the theme. 350 women participated in this demonstration.

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First Lesbian Pride March in Canada

“Look over here, look over there, lesbians are everywhere!” was the chant of over 200 women who marched from Robson’s Square in Vancouver to the West End Community Centre in Canada’s first lesbian pride march which took place on the weekend of the fifth Binational Lesbian Conference. They were there to:

"Define what it means to be lesbian and come out, not just as individual women, but as a movement"
Dorothey Kidd, Organizer

Glad Day Bookshop Raid

On April 21st, Glad Day Bookshop which is the oldest surviving LGBT bookstore across Turtle Island was targeted by the Toronto Police Services in a series of raids. Kevin Orr is charged with "possession of obscene material for purposes of resale."

QueerEvents.ca - queer history - kevin orr gald day bookshop

One of Canada's first programs to combat anti-gay discrimination and violence is implemented by the Toronto District School Board after a hate crime in which their employee Kenneth Zeller is murdered in Toronto's High Park.

Moving towards equality

The Parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights released a report titled "Equality for All" on October 16, 1985. The committee writes that it is shocked by the high level of discriminatory treatment of homosexuals in Canada. The report discusses the harassment, violence, physical abuse, psychological oppression and hate propaganda that homosexuals live with. The committee recommends that the Canadian Human Rights Act be changed to make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. It would take another ten (10) years before this is achieved.

Little Sister’s Bookstore Seizure

On December 8, Canada Customs seizes more than 500 books and magazines destined for Little Sister's using the 1847 Customs Act prohibiting the importation of books with “immoral or indecent character" that allowed customs officials to confiscating shipments of allegedly “obscene” titles at their own discretion

Among the 58 titles seized are Jean Genet's Querelle and four other books available at the Vancouver Public Library. The battle heats up after Customs declares the Advocate news magazine inadmissible and the store goes to court. It takes the store two years and $5,000 in legal fees to get the government to admit that it should never have seized the magazines in the first place. By then, unfortunately, the magazines had been burned.

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Media Credit: Richard Banner

Winnipeg first official Pride

Winnipeg holds its first-ever Pride on August 2, with a turn-out of 250 LGBT community members, supporters, and allies. Some the first participants of this event actually wore paper bags over their heads out of fear of rallying in public.

The event has since grown to a vibrant, annual festival with an attendance of 35,000.

First openly gay member of canadian parliament

British Columbia MP Svend Robinson came out as Canada's first openly gay member of parliament. Robinson publicly announced he was gay during an interview with CBC reporter Barbara Frum.

Robinson was the lone publicly gay MP for another six years, until Quebecois Réal Ménard came out in 1994, followed by B.C. MP Libby Davies who was the first lesbian to come out in 2001.

Halifax's first official Pride March

Halifax holds their first organized Pride March, as with many other cities, these early pride events were primarily protesting the prejudice and discrimination faced by the LGBT community. 

The first year 75 people marched through Halifax's North End, this event has grown to attract over 120,000 participants to the annual event each summer.

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Media Credit: Anita Martinez


May 17, the World Health Organization (WHO) voted to remove 'homosexuality' from being designated a mental disorder in the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10).

The term Two Spirit (niizh manidoowag) is coined at the third annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg. The term allows Indigenous LGBTQ+ folks to reject other English terms that impose the Western views of gender and sexuality on indigenous people.

Tipping Point: The Sex Garage Raids

On July 15, Police raid The Sex Garage's After Party. The violence ignited 36 hours of clashes between Montreal’s LGBT community and the police force, which was accused at the time of harbouring a culture of homophobia. The Sex Garage raid is now widely considered to be Montreal’s Stonewall, after the New York City riots in 1969 that marked a turning point for the LGBT rights movement worldwide.

Sex Garage politicized a generation of LGBT activists who would change the Quebec political landscape, uniting gays and lesbians, and francophones and anglophones, in a common front. These activists would establish the Divers/Cité Pride March and political-action groups like La Table de concertation des gaies et lesbiennes du grand Montréal to successfully fight for LGBT civil rights and improve gay life in Montreal.

Little Sister’s Bookstore Constitutional Challenge

Fed up with years of seizures, Little Sister's launches a constitutional challenge to Customs' censorship powers on June 7th, 1990. Together with the BC Civil Liberties Association, the store contends that Customs is discriminating against gay men and lesbians and violating the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.

December 15, 2000, ten years after it began, the Little Sister's case reached the Supreme Court Of Canada which rules that Customs targeted Little Sister’s solely because it's a gay and lesbian bookstore. But also ruled that Customs can continue to screen and censor material at the border, provided it screens equally, without regard to the orientation of the material. This meant that Customs now had to prove that confiscated materials were obscene while previously it was up to the importer to prove otherwise.

City of Toronto officially endorses the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in Toronto.

Federal court lifts ban against gays and lesbians in the military

In January 1990, Michelle Douglas, a lesbian woman who had been dismissed from the armed forces launched a lawsuit against the military for compensation for her dismissal and to challenge its discriminatory policy against gay and lesbian service members. On 27 October 1992, the day the trial of her case was to begin, the armed forces agreed to settle and as part of the settlement the Federal Court signed a judgment granting declarations that Douglas’s section 15(1) rights had been violated and that "the Defendant's poli[cies] ... regarding the service of homosexuals in the Canadian Armed Forces are contrary to the Charter."

Later that day, the Chief of Defence Staff issued a statement that "Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation, will now be able to serve their country ... without restriction".

Sexual Orientation ‘read into’ Canada Human Rights Act

Captain Joshua Birch launched a human rights complaint after being discharged from the Canadian Forces for disclosing he was gay. He successfully argued that the omission of sexual orientation from the Canadian Human Rights Act constituted discrimination under the equality rights guarantee set out in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

To remedy this under-inclusive piece of legislation, on August 6, 1992 the Ontario Court of Appeal "read" the term sexual orientation into the Canadian Human Rights Act. This meant that whenever someone read the section, they had to understand that "sexual orientation" was also covered under the Act. [Haig and Birch v. Can., (1992)]

Federal Justice Minister Kim Campbell responds to the decision by announcing the government would take the necessary steps to include sexual orientation in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Supreme Court rules that refugees can apply based on sexual orientation

On June 30, 1993 the Supreme Court ruled that gays and lesbians could apply for refugee status on the basis of facing persecution in their countries of origin.

In a ruling regarding an unrelated LGBT2Q+ case, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a landmark (and precedent-setting) decision, declared that sexual orientation should be seen as a “social group” within the context of determining convention refugee status. This ruling opened up the way for LGBTQ+ refugees to seek protection in Canada.

[Canada (AG) v Ward, [1993] 2 S.C.R. 689]

Montreal's Katakombes Bar Raids

On February 17, a legendary bar in Montreal's gay milieu, the KOX / Katakombes was raided by Montreal police who arrested all 165 men present for having been in a "bawdy house". This event barely took place a few weeks after the hearings of the Human Rights Commission which, among other things, pointed the finger at the police for its repression of the gay community.

First Gay and Lesbian Pride March in P.E.I.

Gay and Lesbian Pride March took place on July 16, 1994, individuals took to the streets of Charlottetown to demand protection under the law and raise awareness.

"I definitely had some trepidation and I think some of that was highlighted by the fact that we had people walking with bags over their head because they were terrified of being outed."
Troy Perrot-Sanderson

City of London refuses Pride request

In 1995, City of London mayor, Dianne Haskett refused requests by HALO (London gay rights group) to officially recognize Pride weekend.

As a result the Halo’s president, Richard Hudler, filed a human rights complaint where the Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled that Haskett’s actions had been discriminatory, and ordered London to officially proclaim a Pride weekend, which it eventually did in 1998. The City of London and Mayor Diane Haskett are fined $10,000. [Hudler v. London (City) (1997), 31 C.H.H.R. D/500 (Ont. Bd. Inq)]

Sexual orientation included in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

The Supreme Court rules on 25 May, 1995 on the case involving Jim Egan and Jack Nesbit, two gay men who sued Ottawa for the right to claim a spousal pension under the Old Age Security Act. The court rules against Egan and Nesbit. However, the Court ruled that Section 15 of the Charter — which guarantees the "right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination" — should include sexual orientation, even though it is not specifically named in the section.

[Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513]

OHRC rules that City of Hamilton actions were discriminatory

A landmark Ontario Human Rights decision on March 6, 1995 found that Hamilton Mayor Bob Morrow discriminated against homosexuals by refusing to proclaim Gay Pride Week in Hamilton in 1991. Morrow was ordered to pay $5,000 to the complainant in the case, Joe Oliver. The 26-page decision released on March 2, 1995, said Morrow contravened the Ontario Human Rights Act by discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Morrow was ordered to proclaim Gay Pride Week the following year if it was requested, but instead council passed a ban of all proclamations to avoid issuing the Gay Pride edict.

[Oliver v. Hamilton (City) (1994), 24 C.H.H.R. D/293 (Ont. Bd. Inq.)]

Same-sex couples gain legal adoption rights in Ontario

An Ontario Court judge finds that the Child and Family Services Act of Ontario infringes Section 15 of the Charter by not allowing same-sex couples to bring a joint application for adoption. Concluding that “I cannot imagine a more blatant example of discrimination,”

Justice Nevins ruled that the definition of “spouse” should be amended to include partners of the same sex and that the four lesbians have the right to adopt their partner’s children. [Re K. (1995), 23 O.R. (3d) 679 (Ont. Ct. Prov. Div)]

On May 24, 1995 Ontario becomes the first province to make it legal for same-sex couples to adopt. British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia follow suit, also allowing adoption by same-sex couples. Other provinces are looking into the issue.

Bill C-33: Sexual Orientation included in Canadian Human Rights Act

Receiving royal assent on June 20, 1996, the federal government passed Bill C-33, adding "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act which covers federally-regulated activities. Parliament enacted Bill C-33, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, to include sexual orientation among the Act’s prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Bill C-33 had the effect of codifying the law as stated in the Ontario Court of Appeal’s Haig (1992) decision and since practised by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

This inclusion was a clear declaration by Parliament that gay, lesbian and bisexual Canadians are entitled to "an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives they are able and wish to have [...]"

Supreme Court of Canada rules that provinces cannot discriminate

In 1991, Delvin Vriend, a lab instructor at King's University College in Edmonton, Alberta, who was open about being in a same-sex relationship, was fired because his sexual orientation was deemed incompatible with a newly created statement of religious belief adopted by The King's College. He attempted to file a discrimination complaint, however the Alberta Human Rights Commission refuses to investigate the case because the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Vriend subsequently sued the Government of Alberta and its Human Rights Commission and, in 1994, an Alberta court ruled that sexual orientation must be treated as a protected class under human rights legislation. The provincial government subsequently appealed and in 1996 the decision was overruled by the Alberta Court of Appeal. This decision was then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Vriend v. Alberta, who finally ruled on April 2, 1998 that provincial governments could not exclude protection of individuals from human rights legislation on the basis of sexual orientation .

[Vriend v Alberta [1998] 1 S.C.R. 493]

Same-sex couples have rights to equal treatment under law

On May 19, 1999 the Supreme Court rules that the Ontario Family Law Act's definition of "spouse" as a person of the opposite sex is unconstitutional as was any provincial law that denies equal benefits to same-sex couples. Ontario is given six months to amend the act.

The ruling centred on the "M v. H" case which involved two Toronto women who had lived together for more than a decade. When the couple broke up in 1992, "M" sued "H" for spousal support under Ontario's Family Law Act. The problem was that the act defined "spouse" as either a married couple or "a man and woman" who are unmarried and have lived together for no less than three years.

The judge rules that the definition violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and declares that the words "a man and woman" should be replaced with "two persons." "H" appeals the decision. The Court of Appeal upholds the decision but gives Ontario one year to amend its Family Law Act. Although neither "M" nor "H" chooses to take the case any further, Ontario's attorney general is granted leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal, which brought the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

[M v H [1999] 2 S.C.R. 3]

Government votes to preserve the definition of 'Marriage'

Although many laws will have to be revised to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in May, the federal government votes 216 to 55 in favour of preserving the definition of "marriage" as the union of a man and a woman. Justice Minister Anne McLellan says the definition of marriage is already clear in law and the federal government has "no intention of changing the definition of marriage or legislating same-sex marriage."

Blockorama: First black queer space at Toronto pride

In 1999 Blockorama made its appearance as the very first black queer space in the Toronto pride festival. Today it is an all day dance party and stage during Pride to celebrate Black Queer and Trans history, creativity and activism.

Blocko shows us that we are not alone, that we are resilient and [that] we know how to have fun in a [world] where we were never meant to survive.

Kyisha Williams, event organizer
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Media Credit: QueerEvents

Bill 5 - Provincial Act to Include Same-Sex Couples

Attorney General Jim Flaherty introduced Bill 5 in the Ontario legislature on Oct 25, 1999, an act to amend certain statutes because of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the M. v. H. case.

Instead of changing Ontario's definition of spouse, which the Supreme Court essentially struck down, the government creates a new same-sex category, changing the province's Family Law Act to read "spouse or same-sex partner" wherever it had read only "spouse" before. Bill 5 also amends more than 60 other provincial laws, making the rights and responsibilities of same-sex couples mirror those of common-law couples.


Passing Bill C-23: Including same-sex couples

In February, the Liberal party introduced Bill C-23, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, in response to the Supreme Court's May 1999 ruling. The act would give same-sex couples who have lived together for more than a year the same benefits and obligations as common-law couples.

In March, Justice Minister Anne McLellan announces the bill will include a definition of marriage as "the lawful union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others."

On April 11, 2000, Parliament passes Bill C-23, with a vote of 174 to 72. The legislation gives same-sex couples the same social and tax benefits as heterosexuals in common-law relationships.

In total, the bill affects 68 federal statutes relating to a wide range of issues such as pension benefits, old age security, income tax deductions, bankruptcy protection and the Criminal Code. The definitions of "marriage" and "spouse" are left untouched but the definition of "common-law relationship" is expanded to include same-sex couples.


Bill 202: Alberta refuses to allow same-sex marriage

Alberta passes Bill 202 which says that the province will use the notwithstanding clause if a court redefines marriage to include anything other than a man and a woman.

Little Sisters’ Win for Freedom of Expression

Little Sisters Bookstore in Vancouver launched a constitutional challenge over its treatment at the hands of Canada Customs, which had been delaying and holding shipments from the US. The Book and Art Emporium claimed Customs was purposefully targeting them.

The Supreme Court agreed in a ruling on December 15, 2000 that the actions by Canada Customs were targeting Little Sisters and Justice Ian Binnie stated "when Customs officials prohibit and thereby censor lawful gay and lesbian erotica, they are making a statement about gay and lesbian culture, and the statement was reasonably interpreted by the appellants as demeaning gay and lesbian values".

The problem persists, however, with gay bookstores alleging that Customs guards disproportionately cite the Supreme Court's 1992 Butler decision against gay and lesbian publications which ruled that material containing scenes of sex mixed with violence and cruelty could be seized.

[Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v Canada (Minister of Justice) [2000] 2 S.C.R. 1120, 2000 SCC 69]

Tipping Point: Pussy Palace Raids

On September 14, six male officers from the Toronto Police raided Club Toronto during an all-female queer and trans event known as the “Pussy Palace.” This event resulted in protests and pickets of the Toronto police's 52 Division.

In 2002, an Ontario provincial court judge ruled that police were wrong to raid the party and a 2005 class action lawsuit  and complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission resulted in a $350,000 settlement which included a formal apology in writing and required the force to establish cultural competency training for all members regarding the LGBT community.

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Community Rally Against Homophobia

On Nov 18, over 3,000 people came together for a march and vigil protesting anti-gay violence held to commemorate the death of Vancouver resident Aaron Webster who was assaulted and killed in Stanley Park by four young offenders in one of Canada's most notorious anti-gay hate crimes. Webster’s death ignited a community that had enough after a series of hate motivated attacks against members of the queer community.

Steps to Marriage Equality Begins

The road to Marriage equality began on July 12, 2002, when Justice LaForme, for a unanimous Ontario Superior Court of Justice, released a landmark decision that would pave the way towards gay marriage in Ontario and across North America. The Ontario Superior Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying is unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave Ontario two years to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.

As a result of the Ontario ruling, the Alberta government passes a bill banning same-sex marriages and defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman. The province says it will use the notwithstanding clause to avoid recognizing same-sex marriages if Ottawa amends the Marriage Act.

[Halpern v. Canada (Attorney General) (2002), CanLII 42749 (ON SCDC) , 60 O.R. (3d) 321, 215 D.L.R. (4th) 223.]

Ontario Superior Court sides with Marc Hall

On May 10th, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert McKinnon rules that a gay student has the right to take his boyfriend to the prom. This legal case was a result of the Durham Catholic District School Board trying to restrict a student, Marc Hall from bringing his boyfriend to the dance at Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic high school in Oshawa.

School officials acknowledge that Hall has the right to be gay, but said permitting the date would send a message that the Church supports his "homosexual lifestyle.". The courts issued an injunction against the Durham Catholic District School Board, allowing Hall to attend the prom with his boyfriend on May 10, 2002. Hall would eventually withdraw his lawsuit in June 2005, after multiple delays.

[Hall v. Powers, Ontario Superior Court, Canada (10 May 2002)]

Raid on Goliath (Calgary)

Goliath’s Sauna and Texas Lounge, a gay bathhouse in Calgary was raided for being a common bawdy house in 2002. Authorities charged two bartenders with running a common bawdy house and 13 patrons as having no lawful excuse for being there. The Crown eventually stayed the charges citing changed community standards.

"We thought the era of police raiding our sexuality was over"

Gareth Kirby, Xtra West

Canada extends Immigration rights to same-sex partners

For the first time in Canadian immigration history, gay men and lesbians are able to formally sponsor their partners. On 28 June 2002, the IRPA and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations came into effect. The new law and regulations have expanded the family class to incorporate common law and conjugal partners, in addition to married spouses. The new legislative and regulatory scheme sets out the rules concerning the sponsorship of same-sex partners. In changing its immigration policy to include same-sex couples, Canada joined several other countries in extending immigration rights to prospective gay and lesbian immigrants.

NWT add Gender Identity to Human Rights Act

The Northwest Territories became the first jurisdiction in Canada to explicitly add "gender identity" to its human rights legislation as a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Same-sex couple marry in Ontario

Michael Leshner and Michael Stark became the first same-sex couple to be issued a marriage license and marry in Toronto, Ontario after the ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeals.

The unanimous Court found that the exclusion of same-sex couples was a clear violation of the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, the court ruling allowing same-sex couples to marry would take effect immediately.

In the next two years, seven provinces and one territories also legalized same-sex marriage B.C (2003) Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, Quebec, Yukon (2004), and New Brunswick (2005).

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Hamilton’s Warehouse Raids

On August 4, 2004, under the guise of performing public health inspections, authorities in Hamilton arrested two patrons for indecency and sparked outrage in the local queer community. Police later admitted learning gay activities happened at the establishment thanks to spotting comments on a gay cruising website, despite initially suggesting they had no idea the business was a bathhouse.

Bill C-38: Civil Marriage Act

Bill C-38 bill became federal law which gave same-sex couples the legal right to marry. This made Canada the fourth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage. Official Legislative summary:

'This enactment extends the legal capacity for marriage for civil purposes to same-sex couples in order to reflect values of tolerance, respect and equality, consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It also makes consequential amendments to other Acts to ensure equal access for same-sex couples to the civil effects of marriage and divorce'

Toronto's First Trans March

The Trans March, originally started by Karah Mathiason began in response to Pride’s lack of organizing efforts for the Trans* Community.

The march, which was not recognized by Pride Toronto as an officially programmed event, was a short route that from Church & Bloor Streets to Church & Wellesley Streets.

When the march reached the Church and Wellsley Streets, they were met with large metal barricades lined up across the street. The marchers, disappointed and frustrated, pushed through the barricades, and finished the first ever Trans March inside the Village.


Olympics gets a Pride House

British Columbia was the host to the 2010 Winter Olympics, for the first time, the Olympic games included the Pride House for LGBT athletes.


First Trans protest in Quebec

Organised by PolitiQ-queer solidaire, an activist group fighting against all forms of heterosexist and cissexist oppression and exclusion in Quebec.

Nearly 200 people gathered for the 2010 demonstration, which included community organizations advocating for the rights of trans people and leading public figures from legal, academic, and political sectors. The protesters demanded changes be made to Quebec's existing regulations requiring those seeking gender marker changes to their civil status to undergo forced sterilization, as well as more accessible ways of changing one's name.

Angela James is inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame

Angela James was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010, becoming the first openly gay player, and only the second black athlete to ever be inducted.

Angela James aka "the Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey" among many other achievements led the Canadian women’s hockey team to four world championships (1990, 1992, 1994, and 1997).

James has been a dominant force in promoting and inspiring women and young girls in sports, each year the CWHL awards the highest scoring player the Angela James Bowl. In 2009 the city of Toronto renamed her hometown hockey arena the Angela James Arena to honour her contributions and work within the local community.

QueerEvents.ca - queer history milestones - Angela James

Saskatchewan courts reinforce our rights

Court of Appeal rules that marriage officers can’t refuse permits to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Kathleen Wynne: Our First open LGBT Premier

Kathleen Wynne wins the leadership of the governing Ontario Liberal Party on the 3rd ballot in its leadership election. Wynne is formally sworn into office on February 11, becoming both Ontario's first female Premier and Canada's first openly LGBT Premier.

queerevents.ca - queer history - first lgbt premier - katheleen wynne

Bill C-279: Trans Rights are Human Rights

The House of Commons passes Bill C-279 in March, a private member's bill sponsored by Randall Garrison, which officially extends human rights protections to transgender and transsexual people in Canada.

Pride festivals launch for the first time in the Ontario cities of Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins.

Alberta elects first non-binary politician

Estefania Cortes-Vargas (born 1991) is elected to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta becoming the first out non-binary politician. They are one of three out LGBT2Q+ people elected to the Alberta Legislature.

The Colombian born politician chose to not run for re-election in the 2019 elections and was instead named executive director of the Pride Centre of Edmonton.

QueerEvents.ca - queer history - Estefania Cortes-Vargas

For the first time in Canadian history, a pride flag is raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The Canadian government lowers the blood donation deferral period, clearing gay and bisexual men to donate blood after abstaining from sex with other men for one year, instead of five. But it did not eliminate the ban.

BLM Protest for Equality

On July 3, 2016 Black Lives Matter - Toronto took the opportunity as the honoured group in the Pride Parade to halt the parade in an effort to address anti-blackness within an already marginalized community. The chapter consulted with Black Queer Youth, an organization for LGBTQ youth, which had its stage moved farther away from the main crowd; queer Indigenous people who have also boycotted pride and its erasure; and Blackness Yes, the community organization that hosts Blockorama, Pride Toronto’s stage for People of Colour, which has also faced some of the largest budget cuts

The group released a list of demands, including a commitment to increase representation among Pride Toronto staff, and to prioritize the hiring of black transgender women and indigenous people. The group also viewed the shutdown as a moment to highlight how Toronto Pride and the Toronto police were attempting to erase the department's poor relationship with the communities.

Although met with mixed reception from both within the queer community and outside, this marked a collective outpouring of frustration and demands for equality and an end to racism from many queer indigenous and people of colour who were being marginalized within the queer community.

QueerEvents.ca - queer histroy - blm protest equlaity
Media Credit: The Star

First transgender mayor elected

Julie Lemieux won 48% of the vote to become Mayor of Très-Saint-Rédempteur, a municipality in the Montérégie region of Quebec.

This marked the first time a transgender person was elected as mayor in any municipality across Canada and the first female mayor in the history of Très-Saint-Rédempteur.

queerevents.ca - lgbt history milestones - julie lemieux
Media Credit: Caroline Grégoire

First trans person appointed judge in Canada.

Kael McKenzie (born 1971) is appointed to the Provincial Court of Manitoba making him the first transgender person appointed as a judge in Canada.

"I didn’t set out to be a trailblazer or to try to have courage. It just happened that way.

Kael McKenzie

He is a member of the Manitoba Métis Nation and has also served as the Manitoba chair of the Canadian Bar Association, and president of the provincial Rainbow Resource Centre for Manitoba's LGBT2Q+ community.

QueerEvents.ca - queer history - trans judge Kael McKenzie
Media Credit: Ian McCausland

Bill C-16: Canadian Human Rights Act expanded to Gender Identity & Expression

On June 19, Bill C-16 was passed by the federal government. The bill updates the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to include the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression." The legislation also makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression. 

It also extends hate speech laws to include the two terms, and makes it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender. The bill also amends the sentencing principles section of the code so that a person's gender identity or expression can be considered an aggravating circumstance by a judge during sentencing.

Bill 74 - Ontario Government marks TDOR

This bill marks November 20th as the official Trans Day of Remembrance and requires the legislature to hold a minute of silence at 10:29 am each year in honour of trans people who have died as a result of anti-trans violence.

Ontario's government is the first to legislate recognition of the day.

Challenging stigma and the blood ban

An electronic petition filed with the House of Commons, E-1589, calls on the Liberal government to stop a practice it says imposes a stigma on gay and bisexual men. Petitioners say the policy also bars Canadian Blood Services — which routinely faces donor shortages — from a potential pool of healthy, safe donations. It was presented to the House of Commons on Dec 10, 2018.

Protests against transphobia

On October 29, hundreds gathered outside the Toronto Public Library to protest the library allowing their space to be used for an event by a controversial feminist writer with transphobic views. Toronto library officials have defended renting out the room for Megan Murphy’s appearance by saying she does not fall under the library’s definition of hate speech. Murphy believes trans women should not use public washrooms designated for women or compete in sporting events against cisgendered women. She claims trans women endanger cis women and women’s rights.

Having a transphobic speaker at the library endangers me because among other things they advocate ... that I'm a threat to other women. These statements cause people to fear trans women and act violently toward us in public spaces.

Gwen Benaway, author

In the aftermath of the protests many authors and queer organizers have refused to do events or engagements at the Toronto Public Library. The Canadian Association of Professional Academic Librarians issued a statement asserting that the Toronto Public LIbrary in allowing the talk in the name of intellectual freedom failed to adequately consider the impact that decision would play in perpetuating discrimination against the transgender community. It further committed to re-examine how the library community understands and deploys core values and principles.

QueerEvents.ca - queer history - transphobia protest at Toronto library
Media Credit: The Canadian Press

W.H.O declares transgender is not a mental disorder

On May 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) voted to remove 'transgender' from being designated a mental disorder.

The W.H.O will now use the term 'gender incongruence' to describe people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. This term has been added to the sexual health category of the 11th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-11).

Blood ban reduced not elimated

Health Canada lowers the blood donation deferral period, clearing gay and bisexual men to donate blood after abstaining from sex with other men for three months, instead of one year. But it did not eliminate the ban.

First Two-Spirit archives in Canada launches

University of Winnipeg launches the first Two-Spirit archives in Canada. The collection — mostly donated by long-time Winnipeg two-spirit activist Albert McLeod is believed to be the most comprehensive collection of two-spirit materials in Canada, The archives will be used by researchers, historians and two-spirit people to tell the story of the movement's 40-year history.

Intersex Flag Raised at City Hall

The Intersex flag was raised at city hall in both Barrie and London Ontario to mark Intersex Awareness Day (October 26th)

QueerEvents.ca - queer history - first intersex flag raised - city hall london ontario

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