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Five decades of milestones

As the whole world commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, Fierté Montréal presents a retrospective of the 50 years of 2SLGBTQIA+* progression in Montreal, Quebec and Canada since 1969. These key moments form a chronology of events, stops court and passed legislation that transformed the course of 2SLGBTQIA+* history in the country.

1969

Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s Liberal government passes Bill C-150 on May 14, decriminalizing gay sex in Canada. Trudeau famously said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

1970

Canada’s first 2SLGBTQIA+* book store, the Glad Day Bookshop, opens in Toronto. Today, it is the oldest LGBTQ book store in the world.

1970 —1971

Gay liberation groups are launched across the country: the Community Homophile Association of Toronto, the Front de libération des homosexuels (FLH) in Montréal, the Gay Alliance Toward Equality in Vancouver and Gays of Ottawa.

1971

The influential The Body Politic publication is established in Toronto and publishes until 1987.

1972

Toronto holds its first Pride celebration with a picnic on the Toronto Islands organized by the University of Toronto Homophile Association, Toronto Gay Action Now and the Community Homophile Association of Toronto.

1972

Maclean-Hunter’s cable community channel in Toronto airs the first episode of Coming Out, Canada’s first television series about 2SLGBTQIA+* issues.

1973

Quebec gay literary icon Michel Tremblay’s landmark play Hosanna, about a drag queen who dresses as Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra, opens at the Théâtre de Quat'sous in Montréal on May 10. Hosanna later opened on Broadway in 1974.

1973

Montréal nightlife pioneer Denise Cassidy – better known as Babyface from her brief professional wrestling career – ran the Baby Face Disco (later renamed Chez Baby Face and Face de bébé) from 1973 until 1983.

1973

The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives are founded in Toronto. The CLGA changed its named to The ArQuives in March 2019. Today, The ArQuives is the largest independent 2SLGBTQIA+* archives in the world.

1977

On October 22, some 50 Montreal police officers carrying machine guns raid the Stanley Street gay bar Truxx, arresting 146 people who are charged with being found in a common bawdy house. The raid and subsequent demonstrations – including 2,000 protestors the next day – force Quebec’s National Assembly to amend the Quebec Human Rights Charter to include sexual orientation as a prohibited form of discrimination, in a landmark vote on December 15, 1977. The amendment is a North American first and the Truxx raid is often referred to as “Montréal’s Stonewall.”

1977

Toronto female impersonator Craig Russell crosses over to the mainstream with the theatrical release of the Canadian film Outrageous!

1978

Vancouver holds its first Pride parade. Today, the Vancouver Pride Parade is the largest Pride in Western Canada.

1978

The pioneering 2SLGBTQIA+* theatre company Buddies in Bad Times is launched in Toronto.

1979

Legendary Montréal gay activist John Banks – personal secretary of Marlene Dietrich for many years – forms La Brigade Rose which organizes Montréal’s first Pride parade drawing 52 marchers.

1980

Edmonton holds its first Pride parade.

1981

Toronto police arrest close to 300 men in raids on four bathhouses on February 5. The following day, some 3,000 protestors take to the streets. The event is considered a turning point in Toronto 2SLGBTQIA+* history and leads to the establishment of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day in Toronto, which draws 1,500 participants that same year.

1983

Canada’s first AIDS service organization, AIDS Vancouver, is launched.

1983

The non-profit Quebec Gay Archives (Archives gaies du Québec) is founded in 1983 by Ross Higgins and Jacques Prince. The archives are home to the prized photos of famed Montréal physique photographer Alan B. Stone, as well as to a copy of the historic LGBTQ publication Les Mouches Fantastiques. The archives regularly present public lectures, museum and gallery expositions, as well as poster exhibits.

1984

Montréal’s “Gay Village” gets its name from gay businessman Bernard Rousseau who opens the “Cinéma du Village” porn theatre, today the “Le National” concert venue in the Village.

1984

Two Canadian 2SLGBTQIA+* publications are founded: Fugues magazine in Montreal, and Xtra in Toronto.

1986

Montréal’s first openly-gay city council member, Raymond Blain, is elected. Blain is credited as the first openly-gay politician ever elected to public office in Canada. After Blain dies from AIDS-related complications in May 1992, “Parc Raymond Blain” on Panet Street is named after him.

1986

2SLGBTQIA+* advocacy organization Egale Canada (formerly Equality for Gays And Lesbians Everywhere) is founded.

1987

Some 250 people march in Winnipeg’s first Pride Day on August 2.

1988

British Columbia MP Svend Robinson comes out as Canada’s first openly gay Member of Parliament.

1988

Some 75 participants take part in the first Halifax Pride march.

1988

The Kids in the Hall debuts on CBC Television. The trailblazing sketch comedy series co-stars openly gay comedic actor Scott Thompson who creates the character Buddy Cole.

1988

Canada’s first 2SLGBTQIA+* film festival, Image + Nation, is founded in Montréal. Many of the early films and activist videos screened at Image + Nation dealt with queer resistance, liberation, AIDS and HIV.

1989

Canada’s pioneering researcher Dr. Mark Wainberg becomes the first to identify the anti-HIV properties of the drug 3TC (Lamivudine) that is used in the treatment of AIDS. Professor and Director of the McGill AIDS Centre and former President of the International AIDS Society, Wainberg helped revolutionize the world’s understanding of HIV-AIDS. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2001 and died in 2017.

1989

Montréal hosts the Fifth International Conference on AIDS in June. AIDS activists take over the opening plenary session, denouncing the government of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s “inaction” on AIDS to the world press, and then publishing the Montréal Manifesto, an international bill of rights for people living with AIDS. Said ACT UP co-founder Larry Kramer, “Montréal was very important because of what we accomplished.”

1990

Montréal police raid the Sex Garage loft party in the early hours of July 15. The raid and subsequent protests politicize a generation of queer activists who would change the Québec political landscape, establish the Divers/Cité Pride March and political-action groups like La Table de concertation des gaies et lesbiennes du grand Montréal to successfully fight for LGBTQ2+ civil rights. Alongside the 1977 Truxx police raid, the game-changing Sex Garage police raid is widely considered to be “Montréal’s Stonewall.”

1990

Vancouver hosts the 1990 Gay Games.

1990

Chris Lea of the Green Party of Canada becomes the first openly-gay leader of a political party in Canada.

1991

The first Black & Blue event draws 800 people. Black & Blue becomes the world's largest gay-benefit dance festival, raising money for HIV/AIDS and the gay community. Attendance peaked in 1999 when B&B drew 17,000 to Montréal’s Olympic Stadium. The following year was the famous “Candle and Ribbon” edition when the Olympic Stadium’s centre field was filled with 25,000 candles creating a giant AIDS ribbon as the spectacular entranceway to the event.

1992

A federal court ruling lifts Canada’s ban on gays and lesbians in the military.

1993

Co-founded by Puelo Deir and Suzanne Girard, Divers/Cité is launched as Montréal’s annual Pride festival, in reaction to the Sex Garage raid of 1990. In 2006, the organization stops organizing Montréal’s Pride parade. The Divers/Cité queer arts festival later folds in February 2015.

1993

In the Supreme Court of Canada case of Canada (Attorney General) v. Mossop, the court rules against Brian Mossop’s appeal after he is denied bereavement leave to attend the /funeral of his partner Ken Popert’s father. Although unsuccessful, it was the first gay-rights case to ever be heard by the Supreme Court.

1993

Public hearings on violence against 2SLGBTQIA+* people are held by the Quebec Human Rights Commission in Montréal from November 15 to 22 and chaired by Fo Niemi. The Commission publishes its report From Illegality to Equality in May 1994 with 41 recommendations – including improving relations with the police — which see concrete results.

1994

Building on the success of the Black & Blue festival and of Divers/Cité, Tourisme Montréal begins marketing the city as a gay-friendly destination.

1995

In the Supreme Court of Canada case of Egan v. Canada, the court rules against activist Jim Egan who applied for Canada Pension Plan spousal benefits for his partner Jack Nesbit. Although the Supreme Court of Canada dismisses the appeal, Egan v. Canada creates an important precedent: all nine judges agree that sexual orientation is protected under Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, even if not specifically mentioned in the Charter.

1996

Parliament passes Bill C-33 which formally adds sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act’s prohibited grounds of discrimination.

1996

Journalist Richard Burnett launches his column Three Dollar Bill in the Montreal alt-weekly HOUR newspaper. The column becomes the first and only syndicated 2SLGBTQIA+* column in Canadian publishing history, running in alternative weeklies across the country until 2011.

1998

In the Supreme Court of Canada case of Vriend v. Alberta, the court rules that “sexual orientation” must be read into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1998

Glen Murray is elected mayor of Winnipeg, becoming the first openly-gay mayor of a major city in North America.

2000

In the Supreme Court of Canada case of Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v. Canada, the court rules in favor of Vancouver’s Little Sister's bookstore that gay publications – even sexually explicit ones – are protected under freedom of speech provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

2000

Parliament amends 68 federal statutes, giving same-sex couples the same social and tax benefits as heterosexuals in common-law relationships.

2001

Joe Clark marches as the grand marshal of Calgary Pride, becoming the first former Prime Minister of Canada to attend a Pride parade.

2001

OUTtv, the world’s first 2SLGBTQIA+* television channel, is originally launched as PrideVision.

2002

The Ontario Superior Court rules that the Durham Catholic District School Board must allow Marc Hall, an openly gay student, to bring a same-sex date to the high school prom. The Marc Hall story was made into the acclaimed movie Prom Queen in 2004 and adapted into the critically-hailed 2016 musical play Prom Queen: The Musical, which premiered in Montréal.

2002

The Quebec National Assembly unanimously votes to allow civil unions for same-sex couples. The law also enshrines parental rights for 2SLGBTQIA+* families, creating filiation for biological children of one of the partners, and for adopted children, as well as the recognition of parental authority and child support obligations. The legislation will serve as a model for the rest of Canada.

2003

In the case of Halpern v. Canada, the Court of Appeal for Ontario rules 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.

2005

Parliament passes the federal Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada.

2005

Allison Brewer becomes leader of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party, becoming the first openly-lesbian leader of a political party, and the first openly-gay leader of a provincial political party, in Canada.

2006

Montréal hosts the inaugural World Outgames. On July 29, the Declaration of Montréal, an international statement of principle about 2SLGBTQIA+* human rights worldwide, is adopted at the Outgames Human Rights Conference.

2007

Fierté Montréal becomes Montreal’s official 2SLGBTQIA+* Pride organization, organizing the city’s annual Pride parade.

2007

Toronto’s 103.9 Proud FM becomes Canada’s first 2SLGBTQIA+* radio station.

2010

The 2010 Winter Olympic Games begin in Vancouver and Whistler features the first-ever Pride House for 2SLGBTQIA+* athletes.

2011

Lesbian filmmaker Gerry Rogers becomes the first openly- 2SLGBTQIA+* politician ever elected to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly.

2012

McGill University's Beta Omega Chapter of Delta Lambda Phi becomes the first chartered gay fraternity in Canada.

2013

Kathleen Wynne becomes both Ontario’s first female Premier and Canada’s first openly- 2SLGBTQIA+* Premier.

2013

Edmonton Pride begins with the raising of the Rainbow flag at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton, the first time in Canadian history that the Rainbow flag has flown on a military base.

2013

Whitehorse’s first annual Pride Parade is part of Queer Yukon’s annual 24 Hours of Gaylight celebration.

2014

Toronto hosts the hugely successful 2014 edition of WorldPride.

2014

Activists launch Pride P.E.I. in Charlottetown to organize the Prince Edward Island Pride Festival.

2014

Activists organize the first Iqaluit Pride party in Nunavut.

2015

The Canadian Football League’s Montréal Alouettes make sports history when they sign American player Michael Sam to a two-year contract, making Sam the first openly-gay player in the league’s history.

2015

Toronto drag queen Michelle DuBarry (a.k.a. Russell Alldread, born November 23, 1931) is awarded the title of World’s Oldest Performing Drag Queen by the Guinness Book of World Records. Dubarry was 84-years-old at the time.

2016

On February 12, Kael McKenzie is sworn in as Canada’s first transgender judge, on the Provincial Court of Manitoba.

2016

For the first time, the ceremonial first kiss between a Canadian Navy sailor and their partner after returning from active duty was between two men: Master Seaman Francis Légaré – at sea aboard the HMCS Winnipeg for over eight months – and his partner, Corey Vautour, on February 23.

2016

For the first time in Canadian history, a Rainbow flag is raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 1.

2016

The Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation hosts the first-ever Two-Spirit and Pride Parade in Saskatchewan on June 9.

2016

Black Lives Matter stages a protest during the Pride Toronto parade, demanding reforms to counter police participation, as well as against racism within the 2SLGBTQIA+* communities. Later that summer, the Vancouver chapter of Black Lives Matter protest the Vancouver Pride parade for including a police float.

2016

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the first sitting PM to march in Pride parades in Canada.

2016

The Eskasoni First Nation’s Pride Day in Cape Breton is the first celebrated by a First Nations community in Atlantic Canada.e.

2016

Federal MP Randy Boissonnault is named Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on 2SLGBTQIA+* issues.

2016

Calgary drag queen Mz. Rhonda – a.k.a. 2SLGBTQIA+* activist and ordained pastor Ron Eberly – lays a wreath beneath the cenotaph at Central Memorial Park on Remembrance Day, to honour fallen 2SLGBTQIA+* soldiers.

2017

Bill C-16 adds protection of gender identity and expression to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code. The new law also includes transgender and non-binary individuals within the protections provided by the hate-speech and hate-crime provisions of the Criminal Code.

2017

Some 100 Pride organizations from across Canada take part in the inaugural Canada Pride celebrations in Montréal. Over 2.7 million visitors attend the 11-day festival organized by Fierté Montréal Pride.

2017

On the occasion of Canada Pride, at an August 18, 2017 press conference at Montréal City Hall, Mayor Denis Coderre and Police Chief Philippe Pichet officially apologize for historical anti-2SLGBTQIA+* Montréal police raids. Pichet said he regretted “the events that happened during police raids on gay bars during the 1960s to the 1990s. The actions were an attack on the dignity of the persons concerned.”

2018

British Columbia begins to supply PrEP for free beginning on January 1, and also becomes the first province in Western Canada to provide lower transgender surgery.

2018

Vancouver trans actress Cassandra James is cast as the first transgender character, Dr. Terry Randolph, in the ABC daytime soap opera General Hospital.

2018

A record number of out LGBTQ2+ political candidates run in the Québec provincial election, including Manon Massé, Louis Charron, Jennifer Drouin, Michelle Blanc, Youri Chassin, Julien Provencher-Proulx, Benoît Racette, Carol-Ann Kack, Élisabeth Germain, Florent Tanlet, Jason Mossa, Hélène Dubé, Marie-Joseph Pigeon, Nicolas Chatel-Launay, Philippe Jetten-Vigeant, Céline Pereira, Simon Charron, Simon Tremblay-Pepin, William Lepage, Mona Belleau, Vincent J.Carbonneau, Élisabeth Grégoire, Caroline Bergevin, Valérie Delage, Annabelle Desrochers, Juan Vazquez, Yan-Dominic Couture, Émilie Paiement, Sylvain Dodier, Jonathan Fraser Gagnon, Chantal Rouleau, Olivier Gignac, Sylvain Gaudreault and Roger Duguay.

2018

LGBTQ2+ armed services veterans are honored in the Montréal Remembrance Day ceremony for the very first time. Martine Roy, dishonorably discharged in 1985 because of her sexual orientation, lays the first-ever wreath for 2SLGBTQIA+* military members.

2018

Canada financially compensates 718 victims of Canada’s “Gay Purge” dating from the 1950s to the early 1990s when federal agencies investigated, sanctioned and sometimes fired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP and of the public service because they were gay or lesbian. The 718 claimants include 628 people who served in the Armed Forces, 78 public servants and 12 RCMP officers.

2019

Canada issues a special one dollar coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization gay sex in Canada.

2019

On May 16, Québec’s National Assembly recognizes Montréal’s Gay Village as the largest 2SLGBTQIA+* district in North America after the Castro in San Francisco, and as an official place of refuge and emancipation.

2021

Adoption of Bill 73, An Act to amend various provisions respecting assisted procreation.

2021

Adoption du projet de loi C-4 visant à interdire les thérapies de conversion à la Chambre des communes.

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