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Pride History in Canada

Pride History in Canada

As LGBTQ+ activism and history are finally gaining more awareness, many people are becoming familiarized with the Stonewall riots in New York City. However, we also have our own history of LGBTQ+ activism in Canada. 

Below I have summarized some pivotal events in Canada’s LGBTQ+ history, which were largely sourced from The Canadian Encyclopedia and Queer Events, a “2SLGBTQ+ organization committed to working towards a strong, inclusive, & accessible Queer community,” based in London, Ontario. 

June 1969
Homosexuality between consenting adults was officially decriminalized in Canada the day before the Stonewall riots occurred in NYC.

August 1971
Around 80 to 200 people gathered at Parliament Hill in Ottawa for Canada’s first large-scale gay rights protest.

August 1973
Several of Canada’s major cities held “LGBT Pride” events, marking a shift into a gay liberation movement.

December 1973
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (finally) removes “homosexuality” as a disorder.

January 1974
Four women who identified as lesbians (now also referred to as “The Brunswick Four,” named after the bar they were in) were dragged out of a Toronto bar by police officers who were also hurling derogatory and homophobic comments at them. The Brunswick Four and the trials they faced fueled the LGBTQ+ community’s ongoing fight for rights.

October 1977
Montreal police raided two gay bars, military style, and arrested 146 patrons. Those who were arrested were crowded in holding cells and forbidden from calling lawyers. The next day, a protest of approximately 2,000 people took place to denounce the previous night’s events. 

December 1977
Quebec adds sexual orientation to their provincial Human Rights Code, making it illegal to discriminate on those grounds. Several other provinces and territories followed suit in the coming years.

September 1978
Canada’s Immigration Act is amended and lifted a ban that had prohibited gay immigrants. 

June 1979
Montreal has its first official Pride parade or “march”. 

February 1981
Often referred to as Canada’s “Stonewall”, four bathhouses in Toronto were raided by an estimated 200 police officers. These coordinated raids, which were given the codename “Operation Soap”, are still one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. The next day the LGBTQ+ community rallied and over 3,000 came together to protest. 

May 1981
The first lesbian pride march in Canada took place in Vancouver.

August 1983
AIDS Vancouver becomes the first AIDS service organization in Canada, during a time when gay men were particularly vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic.

May 1990
17 years after the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the World Health Organization (WHO) finally recommends removing homosexuality as a mental disorder from the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10).

October 1992
Federal court ends the ban that prohibited individuals who were not heterosexual from serving in the military. 

May 1995
Same-sex couples are now able to adopt in Ontario, several other provinces then follow their lead.

June 1996
Bill C-33 officially adds sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which means discrimination regarding sexual orientation is prohibited when it comes to federally-regulated activities. 

January 1997
The first identified Trans Arts Festival in North America takes place in Toronto.

May 1999
The Supreme Court rules that same-sex couples have the right to equal benefits that opposite-sex couples are allowed.

June 1999
The first Black queer safe space, Blockorama, is designated at the Toronto Pride festival. Blockorama still takes place at Toronto Pride today. 

January 2002
The Northwest Territories are the first in Canada to add “gender identity” to its human rights legislation to be a prohibited ground of discrimination.

July 2002
The Ontario Superior Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex couples from getting married is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave Ontario two years to allow same-sex couples equal marriage rights.

July 2003
Two men, both named Michael, get married in Toronto and are the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Canada.

July 2005
Bill C-38 makes it a federal law giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry in Canada, which was the fourth country in the world to do so.

June 2009
The first official Trans March takes place in Toronto, though it is not officially recognized by Toronto Pride.

June 2016
A pride flag is raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the first time.

June 2017
Bill C-16 officially updates the Canadian Human Rights Act to include gender identity and gender expression, prohibiting discrimination of people on the basis of these two items. This bill also amends hate speech laws to include the two terms, making it a hate crime to target someone for being transgender. 

June 2018
Bill C-66 is introduced and includes a process in which individuals who had been previously convicted for their sexuality can have their criminal records erased.

May 2019
The World Health Organization votes to end the classification of transgender identity as a mental disorder.

December 2021
Bill C-4 criminalizes conversion therapy (a practice used to attempt to change an individual’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression) nationwide.

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