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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.

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

 

Canada 1969

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.

 

1973

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, and can also be considered the first pride parade in Vancouver.

 

1976

Police crackdowns against gay bars in Montreal's Stanley Street gay village, widely perceived as mayor Jean Drapeau's attempts to "clean up" the city in advance of the 1976 Summer Olympics, lead to riots

 

1977

In October, two gay establishments in Montreal, Mystique and Truxx, are raided. A protest organized the next day attracts 2,000 participants. By December, the province of Quebec becomes the second jurisdiction in the world, behind only Denmark, to pass a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

1979

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

 

1980

Edmonton holds their first ever Pride Festival.

 

1981

The catalyst for Toronto's Pride events was the Bathhouse Raids that occurred on Feb. 5, 1981. 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 it was these mass protests that evolved into the first Toronto Pride celebration that was officially recognized by the city.

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

 

1985

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.

 

1987

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.

 

2013

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

 

2014

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

 

2016

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

 

 

For more information please see the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Archives.