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LGBTQ / Gay History in Canada

  • 1950 - 1960

    The RCMP, throughout the late 1950s and the entirety of the 1960s, kept tabs on homosexuals and the patrons of gay bars in Ottawa and other cities. The force also worked with the FBI's own surveillance of homosexuals and alerted the FBI when a suspected homosexual had crossed the border to the United States.

  • 1964

    Canada sees its first gay-positive organization, ASK, and first gay magazines: ASK Newsletter (in Vancouver), and Gay (by Gay Publishing Company of Toronto). Gay was the first periodical to use the term 'Gay' in the title and expanded quickly, including outstripping the distribution of American publications under the name Gay International. These were quickly followed by Two (by Gayboy (later Kamp) Publishing Company of Toronto).

  • 1969

    May 14: Canada decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69. It receives royal assent on June 27.

  • 1971

    August 28: We Demand, Canada's first gay public protest, occurs in Ottawa on Parliament Hill.

  • 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.

    October: The Lesbian Organization of Toronto is formed.

  • 1977

    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

    May 10: In the British Columbia provincial election, Robert Douglas Cook becomes Canada's first openly gay political candidate. He garners 126 votes in West Vancouver-Howe Sound as a candidate of the Gay Alliance Toward Equality.

  • 1981

    February 5: Four bathhouses in Toronto are raided by the Toronto Police in Operation Soap. The event is considered one of the crucial turning points in Canadian LGBT history — now regarded as the Canadian equivalent of the 1969 Stonewall riots. One of the protest marches during this time is now recognized as the first Toronto Pride event.

    May 30: Pisces Health Spa in Edmonton, Alberta is raided by the City of Edmonton Police after a lengthly undercover investigation by the then called Morality Control Unit. Many of the 56 men police arrested eventually pleaded guilty, despite the fact that there was no evidence to suggest prostitutes were working in the spa, nor that minors were enticed to enter.

  • 1983

    July 23: A firebombing attack on Henry Morgentaler's abortion clinic in Toronto also results in significant damage to the Toronto Women's Bookstore, one of Canada's most important venues for feminist and lesbian literature.

  • 1984

    March: Pink Triangle Press, the publisher of The Body Politic, launches the local LGBT newspaper Xtra! in Toronto.

  • 1985

    June: Kenneth Zeller is murdered in Toronto's High Park, a hate crime which spurs the Toronto District School Board, Zeller's employer, to implement one of Canada's first programs to combat anti-gay discrimination and violence.

  • 1988

    February 29: Svend Robinson becomes Canada's first elected Member of Parliament to come out as gay.

  • 1989

    August 21: Alain Brosseau, a straight man in Ottawa, is attacked by a gang of teenagers who wrongly assumed he was gay, while walking home from his job at the Château Laurier. The attackers chase him through Major's Hill Park to the Alexandra Bridge, and then throw him off the bridge resulting in his death. This results in an outcry leading to the formation of the Ottawa Police Service's GLBT Liaison Committee two years later.

  • 1990

    August 4 - August 11: Vancouver hosts the 1990 Gay Games.

    Chris Lea wins the leadership of the Green Party of Canada, becoming the first openly gay leader of a political party in Canada.

  • 1993

    Pink Triangle Press launches Capital Xtra! in Ottawa and Xtra! West in Vancouver.

  • 1994

    June 9: Bill 167, the Bob Rae government's proposed legislation extending spousal benefits to same-sex couples, is defeated 68-59 in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

  • 1998

    October 28: Glen Murray is elected mayor of Winnipeg, becoming Canada's and North America's first openly gay mayor of a major city.

  • 2000

    Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada (Minister of Justice), a landmark Supreme Court of Canada case filed by Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium against Canada Customs, begins.

  • 2001

    November 17: In one of Canada's most notorious anti-gay hate crimes, Vancouver resident Aaron Webster is assaulted and killed in Stanley Park by four young offenders. A march and vigil commemorating Webster and protesting anti-gay violence is held the following day.

  • 2003

    June 12: The Court of Appeal for Ontario rules, in Halpern v. Canada, that the common law definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision immediately legalizes same-sex marriage in Ontario, and sets a legal precedent – over the next two years, similar court decisions legalize same-sex marriage in seven provinces and one territory before the federal Civil Marriage Act is passed in 2005.

    November 15: With same-sex marriage recognized by the courts, British Columbia cabinet minister Ted Nebbeling becomes Canada's first serving cabinet minister to legally marry his same-sex partner.

  • 2005

    May 17: Gay MLA Lorne Mayencourt is reelected in Vancouver-Burrard in the British Columbia provincial election, and gay candidate Nicholas Simons is elected to his first term in Powell River-Sunshine Coast. Mayencourt's victory is not finalized until early June, however, due to a recount battle with gay challenger Tim Stevenson.

    July 19: The federal Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada, is given royal assent.

  • 2008

    September 29: At an all-candidates debate staged for a high school student audience in Sudbury during the 2008 federal election, independent candidate David Popescu responds to a question about same-sex marriage by stating that "homosexuals should be executed". His remarks are widely criticized across Canada, and the Greater Sudbury Police Service investigates whether the comments constitute a crime under Canadian hate speech legislation. On October 2, he also calls for the execution of Egale Canada executive director Helen Kennedy in an interview on CFRB, leading to a second hate crimes investigation by the Toronto Police.

  • 2010

    February 8: The 2010 Winter Olympics begin in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. The facilities in Whistler include the event's first-ever Pride House for LGBT athletes.

  • 2011

    January 10: In a ruling by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" is effectively banned from Canadian radio airplay after a gay resident of St. John's files a complaint because the lyrics contain the derogatory slur "faggot". The ruling is later rescinded on August 31, with the council leaving it to individual radio stations' discretion whether or not to play the song.

  • 2012

    March 19: Craig Scott wins the federal by-election in Toronto—Danforth, becoming the sixth openly gay MP in the 41st Canadian Parliament.

    November: Twenty LGBT officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police release an online video as part of the international It Gets Better Project.

  • 2013

    April 2: The gay owners of a restaurant in Morris, Manitoba announce that they are closing the establishment, just three months after opening it, due to homophobic persecution by some residents of the town. The situation draws widespread criticism across Canada, including comments of support for the owners from Morris mayor Gavin van der Linde, Manitoba premier Greg Selinger and opposition leader Brian Pallister; Selinger announces that he will have lunch at the restaurant during his upcoming flood preparation tour of the Red River Valley region.

Right Now

The past shapes who we are today, and LGBTQ history in Canada is an important page of our heritage. The battle for LGBTQ acceptance is still ongoing, and your support can make a huge difference in the lives of others here and around the world.