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The History of PRIDE in Canada
Often times when we hear about the history of the LGBTQ Community we hear about Harvey Milk or the Stonewall Riots in New York City, but we don’t often hear about the history of the LGBTQ rights movement in Canada. Just like our neighbours to the south, the LGBTQ community in Canada has had to endure a long and arduous journey to be able to live in a country where, for the most part, those identifying as LGBTQ can feel safe and accepted.
Here are a couple key historical moments in Canada’s LGBTQ History according to QueerEvents.ca:
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 received royal assent on June 27, one day before the Stonewall Riots took place in New York.
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.
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.
Montreal and Vancouver become the first Canadian cities to host an official Pride march and festival.
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.
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.
The Supreme Court of Canada 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.
The Supreme Court rules in case M. v H. that same-sex couples must be afforded the same rights as opposite-sex couples in a common-law relationship.
The Ontario Superior Court rules that prohibiting gay couples from marrying is unconstitutional and violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gives Ontario two years to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Michael Leshner and Michael Stark became the first same-sex couple to marry in Canada.
Bill C-38 which gave same-sex couples the legal right to marry became federal law. This made Canada the fourth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.
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.
For the first time in Canadian history, a pride flag is raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Bill C-16 is 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.
Thank you to those brave men and women who had the courage to stand up, not only for themselves, but an entire community.
“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” ~ Harvey Milk
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