Feature Story, Canada
2019 will mark the fiftieth year since the infamous Stonewall riots on June 28, 1969 in New York City, which many consider the start of the modern LGBTQ+ Pride movement in the USA and around the world. What some may not know, however, is that there were also protests and advancements taking place in Canada, as well.
Eleven years before Stonewall, in August 1958, a small group of people stood on the steps of the Vancouver Courthouse to protest for LGBTQ+ equality. Mr. ted northe, later to become known as the Empress of Canada, led the group and wore a dress for the first time. They held signs that said "I am a Human Being" and although it was not as high profile as Stonewall, and they were quickly chased away by the police, it is noted as the start of the movement for gay rights in Canada. In June 1969, Canada decriminalized homosexuality between consenting adults, and then Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau made famous the statement “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
The concept of Gay Pride began to emerge in the 1970s, in response to police harassment at LGBTQ+ venues in various cities across Canada. Although there is still some debate as to the actual dates, it is said that the first official pride marches and festivals were held in Montreal and Vancouver in the summer of 1979. The police bathhouse raids in Toronto in 1981 and the resulting protests are also considered the catalyst for their first Pride celebrations. There is much, much more detail in the timeline of the history of LGBTQ+ rights, and Pride in Canada, and space limitations allow us only this brief overview here. For more detailed information, visit the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives.
Fast forward to 2019 and as the new year begins plans are already shaping up for the first Pride event of the year, the annual Whistler Pride & Ski Festival, now in its twenty seventh year, taking place January 20 to 27, 2019. Not long afterwards, Capital Pride in Ottawa, with the support of Heritage Canada will be hosting their first ever WinterPride, February 6 to 10, 2019 in conjunction with the Fierté Canada Pride Conference. And keeping with new and relatively new Pride events, Peak Pride at BC’s Big White Ski Resort is expanding this year to include Sun Peaks Resort, hosting winter Pride events on both mountains in March and April, 2019.
Fierté Canada Pride (FCP) is a membership based national association of pride organizations, with a current membership of fifty five pride organizations from across Canada. Their annual conference brings together these member organizations to collaborate, support and network, and to develop a national Pride identity. Their first ever Canada Pride was held in Montreal in 2017, with the next Canada Pride will be held in Winnipeg in 2020.
In addition to the national association, numerous other smaller Pride celebrations are developing from coast to coast, sometimes in places that are a pleasant surprise. At last check there were over seventy events, including FCP member events. Happy Pride Canada!