In this article, the history of Pride month Canada will be detailed, beginning with the origin and development of the queer community in Canada and the latest news relating to pride month Canada.
Origin Legislations Against Trans People In Canada (Why Did Pride Month Canada Come About?)
Before the 13th century, the Roman Catholic Church celebrated same-sex marriages, but with the plague and rise of Protestantism, the Church had to revoke its doctrine, so sexual practices with no birth became illegal.
This directly affected the Turtle Island natives of Canada, especially Two spirited people and the LGBTQ community. Those who refused to give up their identity with the advent of colonialism were persecuted or went into hiding.
‘Criminal Code’ of 1841
The rights of queer people were criminalized, which in 1890 was taken as indecent behavior between males, but was extended to include lesbians in 1953.
Sodomy and Life Imprisonment
The Act of ‘sodomy’ was a death punishment till 1869 – The first transgender men in Canada to be convicted were Patrick Kelly and Samuel Moore. The law developed into a life imprisonment sentence till 1954.
LGBTQ RIGHTS, LAWS, AND PROTESTS (Pride Month Canada)
Representation in Media
The first openly gay activist, writer, and politician were Jim Egan, who published newspapers opposing the communities’ mistreatment. Media representation still plays a significant role in pride month Canada, especially in the 21st century.
Unfair Treatment of Everett Klippert (1965)
A mechanic’s assistant, Everett Klippert, was questioned by the police for some crime, where he ended up admitting that he was gay and wished to stay that way. The police immediately labeled him a ‘sex offender,’ despite being proven wrong by psychological tests (as homosexuality was considered a mental condition). He was imprisoned and received no legal help.
The unjust action was not taken well by the public, with even members of Parliament condemning such acts. During the same time, organizations like A.S.K. in Vancouver and G.A.Y. in Toronto started operating for transgender rights. These are some of the early unrests to establish the celebration of Pride month Canada.
Gay Rights Protest (1971) (Gay and Lesbian Activists)
The 1969 Stonewall Riots of New York, considered one of the first LGBTQ movements where activists fought for equal rights after unfair means of arrest by the police. This inspired movements in other LGBTQ communities as well, including Canada.
On August 28, 1971, almost 100 people from Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal gathered for the First Gay Liberations March and protested in Parliament Hill. Their petition listed ten demands to ensure equal rights as the accepted cisgender community. At the same time, around 20 activists also protested in Vancouver’s Robson Square. The year saw the release of Everett Klippert, as well.
These first protests foreshadowed the celebration of Pride Month Canada.
Pride protest in Toronto (1974)
A performance indicating enjoying being a dyke (a lesbian slang form), on open mic night by four women at the Brunswick Tavern club (Toronto) on January 5, 1974, caused a forceful arrest by the Toronto police on the claim of a ‘lesbian riot,’ with physical and mental harassment. Since they were denied legal help, they refused to participate in the court proceedings leading to arrest for 30 days.
This movement was considered important not only for the history of Pride Toronto but for several reasons:
1) It was regarded as one of the early resistance stories to homophobic treatment in Canada.
2) The portrayal of mainstream media changed from opposing the queer community to a neutral stance.
3) It can also be considered as resulting in a united stance from the LGBTQ people, as a legal defense fund was created after this movement, which came from each gender community who participated as viewers in the trial. The women did end up getting free legal help.
Despite the positive outcomes, the Toronto police responsible for these actions were free, and at present, no history of any such incident stands at the Brunswick Tavern.
The Montreal ‘Club Baths’ Cleanup for Olympics (1976) – Pride Month Canada
Police raided the Club Baths (gay bathhouses), gay and lesbian bars, and the Neptune Sauna in the Stanley Street Village of Montreal. This action was taken to clean up the city for the 1976 Summer Olympics by Mayor Jean Drapeau.
After this, the Comite Homosexual antirepression/Gay Coalition (CHAR) brought in representations from various gay groups of the city, including French and English activists and members of feminist movements.
One of the largest pride protests took place on June 19, in a CHAR-organized event, about 300 queers and their supporters protested against these ‘cleanups.’ This incident was a precursor to the major protest of 1977.
Montreal Raids of 1977
Around 50 Montreal Police officers, well-armed and protected with vests, arrested 146 homosexual men who were patrons from two gay bars – Le Mystique and Truxx in Stanley Street, on October 22, 1977. It was considered one of the biggest mass arrests in the country. The arrested men were refused to take legal help and tested for venereal diseases as well.
Community protests ensued, with 2000 people blocking the Stanley Street corners; this led to a violent police and protestors clash. This raid is often referred to as the ‘Montreal’s Stonewall.’
The intensity of protests, compared to the biggest ones, shows how the culture of transgender rights and values came to enshrine in Pride Month Canada.
The Soap Police Raids of 1981
As part of the Toronto Pride, a noticeable protest was held against the 200 Toronto police officers arresting approximately 300 men from four gay bathhouses under ‘Operation Soap.’ The reason given was the result of an undercover mission revealing sex work and indecent acts.
Despite them being released and the charges being dropped, they suffered verbal abuse. It was also one of the largest arrests in the Toronto chapter. The volume of Rallies involving more than 3000 people and violent outbursts between the police and protestors marks this as ‘Canada’s Stonewall.’
Toronto in Canada has a long history of protests and rights seen in its region and overall pride month Canada celebrations.
Who was the first openly gay member of the Canadian Parliament?
Svend Robinson, the British Columbian MP, came out as the first openly gay member in the Parliament during the C.B.C. interview held on February 29, 1988. His efforts were encouraged when two other parliamentary members came out in 1994 and 2001.
Politics holds a vital role in any country’s fate, and to adopt an open attitude for all, regardless of profession, becomes one of the factors to know what Pride month Canada is held for.
1990 WHO List
On May 17, 1990, The World Health Organization removed homosexuality as a mental disorder in their 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health problems. This was a notable achievement for the world pride community.
Sex Garage Raids of 1990
Montreal police raided the Sex Garage venues after the party on July 15, 1990, following the LGBT members and police clashes due to a homophobic culture. This incident is taken as ‘Montreal’s Stonewall’ as it eventually united gays and lesbians, different language speaking communities, in Quebec’s political landscape.
Uniting the different sections within the queer community is a factor for when everyone gathers in the annual Pride month Canada.
First Gay Councillor of Toronto (1991)
A historical achievement in Pride Toronto was the election of Kyle Rae, the first out gay councilor, in 1991.
Before this, in Toronto, 1990 was when the Toronto City Council voted officially to proclaim Pride Day, although the Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton refused to conduct the Pride Week.
These are important achievements in Pride Toronto, as the Toronto City Council finally denoted a pride day in 1991.
Issue of Sexual Orientation in Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
On May 25, 1995, the verdict of the Old Age Security Act involving two gay men’s right to claim the spouse pension was negatively ruled. Despite that, the court added that the 15th Section in the Charter – guaranteeing equal protection and benefit under the law, must include sexual preference.
To know Equality exists among all helps expand the crowd diversity in Pride Month Canada.
Canadian Human Rights Act includes Sexual Orientation (Bill C-33) – Pride Month Canada.
Bill c- 33 amending the Canadian Human rights act, so sexual choice can be included as prohibited to discriminate, was passed on June 20, 1996, by the federal government.
The Bill codified the law in the Canadian Human rights Commissions and Human Rights Tribunal. This made the Parliament’s decision clear on treating the LGBTQ communities with equal opportunities of making a living as the cisgender ones.
Pussy Palace Raids of Toronto (2000)
On September 14, 2000, 6 Toronto police officers raided ‘Pussy Palace‘ – female queer and trans, in Club Toronto. The protests that took place against the Toronto officers were mainly picketing the 52nd division. The 2002 ruling of Ontario (Toronto is the capital) Provincial court decided that the police actions were wrong.
Through efforts of the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Toronto force was also given cultural training for sensitization towards the members of the Lgbt community. This can be considered a major achievement for Pride Toronto.
Throughout history, police enforcement has carried negative attitudes against a culture portrayed as wrong; however, proper discussions and acceptance can lead to even them joining the annual Pride month Canada.
Same-sex Couples (Bill C-23)
The modernization of the Benefits and Obligations Act, introduced in Bill C- 23, provided same-sex couples living together as consenting adults above a year equal benefits like that of law-approved couples on April 11, 2000. The Bill included old age security, Criminal Code, pension benefits, and income tax deduction.
Northwestern Territories Include Gender Identity in Their Human Rights Act
On January 31, 2002, gender identity was added as one of the prohibited grounds in the human rights legislation of the Northwest Territories. It was the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so.
Equality of Marriage
The Ontario Superior Court Ruling on July 12, 2002, stated that a same-sex marriage of partners was not unconstitutional. Ontario was given two years to apply the same. But, to oppose these actions, the Alberta government’s Bill was passed, which banned same-sex unions.
However, positive actions were also seen in the first marriage between partners of the same sex on June 10, 2003, in Toronto, Ontario (during the pride month Canada). This Act of legalizing same-sex couples was applied in provinces like Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New Brunswick within the next two years.
In 2005, Bill C-38 gave same-sex couples the right to marry all over the country, which made Canada the fourth one in doing so.
Marriage is a holy union; however, the nature of such matches cannot be decided due to diversity given by nature itself, so to understand and inculcate the same-sex mingling gives another reason to celebrate Pride Month Canada.
Quebec Trans Protest – Pride Month Canada
The PolitiQ – queer solitaire organized a trans protest against the oppression by heterosexual communities.
Around 200 people, including public figures in the legal, political and academic fields, gathered on June 17, 2010, to demand changes like prohibiting forced sterilization for those wishing to change their gender and more accessibility for the change process itself.
Celebration of Pride Culture
The history of Pride month traces back to the Stonewall uprising of June 28, 1969 (New York). The first official pride parade was conducted on the 1st anniversary of this event, soon followed by pride marches in many cities of the U.S.A. So, June became the official pride month in the country, which has become an annual event ever since.
The rainbow flag – taken as the pride flag, has a history spanning back to 1978. Designed by Gilbert Baker – each color had its significance in the rainbow flag:
1) Pink – Sex
2) Red – Life
3) Orange – healing
4) Yellow – sunlight
5) Green – nature
6) Turquoise – magic
7) Blue – serenity
8) Violet – spirit
The first pride flag was revealed in a 1978 parade held during pride month in San Francisco. Soon, it became the official flag used during pride month, although there are variations throughout the world.
Despite the official pride month in Canada starting in the early 1970s, due to the Toronto raids, a cause that led to the pride festival, there were many held before. We have outlined some of the celebrations of pride month Canada and in general as well:
First Unofficial Pride March of Toronto (1972)
In 1981, Pride Toronto was officially conducted, although it was first recognized in August 1972 in Canada. The march took place from Cecil Street, Nathan Philips Square, to Queen’s Park. It was to celebrate the decriminalization charges of 1969 and the Ottawa demonstration of 1971.
Even if not officially recognized, the early marches are also included in Pride month Canada.
The First Pride Week in Canada
The result of widespread discomfort was seen in August 1973, when the national LGBT event took place in many cities of Canada like Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and so forth. The pride event included festival celebrations displaying documentary screenings, dance, picnic, and a gay rights rally.
In a specific place, Vancouver, the pride festival began with an art exhibit and picnic in Ceperley Park, organized by GATE (Gay alliance towards Equality), which was featured in their newspaper, followed in 1978 with the city’s First Pride parade. This event is considered quite important in the pride history of Canada as the attitude of shunning the community changed to gay Pride.
The First Pride Week of the country is of immense importance for Pride Month Canada.
First Pride March of Montreal (1979) – Pride Month Canada
The first Gay and Lesbian Pride week in Montreal was conducted between 16 and 23rd June, where the first public demonstration of Quebec against the anti-gay repression of 1976 was celebrated.
The pride flag or the rainbow flag for this movement was made by the Montreal Activist John Banks (member of La brigade Rose, which didn’t have a rainbow flag), which he carried and La Monroe (the drag legend of the city). This can be considered one of the first instances of a rainbow flag by the Canadians.
Around 52 attendees marched from Sherbrooke to Duluth on Saint -Laurent Boulevard. The French-speaking world also considers this one of the largest Pride celebrations.
The First Lesbian Pride March of Canada (1981)
Over 200 women on May 16, 1981, marched from Vancouver’s Robson square to West End Community Centre, which took place on the weekend of the Binational Lesbian Conference.
This was considered as a legacy because:
1) It challenged both the government injustice and male dominance within the community.
2) This led to marches that included women with diverse ethnicities and backgrounds protesting for the community, freedom, and mainly visibility.
The First Official Pride Parade of Vancouver (1981) – Pride month Canada
A picnic and art exhibit was organized in Ceperley Park by the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE), which was featured in their newspaper under ‘Gay Pride Week ’73’, was followed in 1978 by the region’s first pride parade.
The new municipal government under Mike Harcourt passed the permit for an Official pride parade in 1981, which, regardless of the hate received, was attended by more than 1500 people.
The First Official Pride March of Halifax
1988 was a dark year for the LGBTQ community in Nova Scotia as a teacher in Shelburne County was fired for having H.I.V., and a person named John William was beaten to death in a gay cruising area – the Camp hill cemetery. This kind of incident only intensified with the fear of AIDS.
Even with their life at stake, around 75 people marched on July 1, 1988, to protest along Gottingen Street at Halifax’s North End with paper bags to cover their heads.
First Trans Festival, 1997
The Counting Past 2, founded by Mirha-Soleil Ross, an artist, and activist, in 1997, was the Trans Arts Festival in the cities of Toronto and Ontario that celebrated the unique economic and cultural situation of the trans communities.
Within their community, this festival wanted the less heard voices to come forward to create an inclusive environment within diversity. It was considered one of the early festivals of such kind in North America, and overall Pride.
The First Black Queer Space of Pride Toronto: Blockorama – Pride Month Canada
On June 1, 1999, Blockorama was created as the first queer space for blacks in the Pride Toronto festival across the Wellesley Subway Station in a parking lot.
The idea originated when Jamea Suberi, a lesbian, feminist, and educator from Trinidad in 1998, noticed that people of color were not present in the pride celebrations. Along with her friends, she wanted to create a carnival section – ‘Pelau,‘ in the Toronto Pride Parade. Then came the idea of Blockorama, an all-day party with dancers, D.J.s, and drummers.
These actions helped include Black lives and queerness into the Toronto pride culture.
Trans Pride in Toronto
The Trans Pride Toronto, launched by Monica Forrester in 2004, was the 1st official trans contingency of the Pride Parade. She also mentioned this as their attempt to work towards a trans and Two-spirit collective, more counseling and proper services, and outreach for homeless people.
The First Trans March of Toronto – Pride Month Canada
In Toronto, Pride, the lack of efforts for the Trans Community-led Karah Mathiason and others to start a march from Church and Bloor Streets to Church and Wellesley Streets on June 27, 2009.
Pride Toronto didn’t officially recognize it, so metal barricades were put to stop them. They finally pushed through to finish the march.
Other Events (First Achievements and Bills)
The 20th-21st century was also crucial for other actions:
1) The first Non – binary politician – Estefan Cortes-Vargas, was elected in Alberta.
2) Parliament raised the Pride Flag for the first time in 2016
3) The First Transgender Mayor – Julie Lemieux, was elected on November 5, 2017, in Tres-Saint-Redempteur.
4) The First Trans Person to be appointed a Judge was Karl McKenzie of the Provincial Court in Manitoba.
5) In 2014, Toronto became the first city in North America to host a world pride event.
The Bills passed also showed further inclusiveness of diversity of queers:
1) Bill 74 marked the Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20 to honor those who died as part of violence against the community in Ontario.
2) Bill c-16, passed on June 19, 2017, includes the terms ‘gender identity and ‘gender expression’ in the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal code.
3) Bill C-66 was introduced by the Canadian Prime Minister – Justin Trudeau, after a formal apology for the violence and crime rates against queer communities, on June 21, 2018. It was to amend appropriate acts and remove the unjust convictions. Although, the result was not satisfactory, as only nine criminal records related to gross indecency/bugger were removed.
A very important step was when British Columbia hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, they made a provision of Pride house for LGBT athletes.
Conclusion (Many Firsts Yet to Come)
In more recent years, despite many firsts, appreciable strides have been made in the world itself. For the world pride, May 23, 2019, was a significant date as W.H.O. declared transgender was not a mental disorder. The first intersex flag was also raised at the City Hall of London on October 25, 2019 (simultaneously in the City hall of Barrie, as well).
If you want to know more recent events of the pride celebrations in Canada, click here.
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