Emergence of the first organizations and public demonstrations

The very first supportive organization of gays in Canada was established in 1964, the Association for Social Knowledge (ASK), and the first specialised publications were ASK Newsletter (Vancouver), Gay (Gay Publishing Company, Toronto) and TWO: The Homosexual Viewpoint in Canada (published by Rick Kerr, in Toronto).

The years following the adoption of the law that partially decriminalized homosexuality the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69, were intense and stressful. The LGBTQ2+ community got organized, demonstrated and demanded a freer and more egalitarian society. Several organizations cropped up all over Canada, and public demonstrations became common.

The first organizations to see the light of day in the early 70s were:

1970

  • Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT)

1971

  • Le Front de libération homosexuel (FLH), in Montréal (the first association of Francophone gays and lesbians)
  • Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE), in Vancouver (one of the first groups for the liberation of the homosexual community in Canada)

1972

  • Zodiac Friendship Society, in Saskatoon
  • Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE) in Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Halifax

1973

  • Montreal Gay Women (the first lesbian organization that distinguished itself from feminist groups)

1974

  • Community Homophile Association of Newfoundland
  • Gay Friends of Fredericton

The first public demonstrations

August 28, 1971 – Submission of the We demand brief: the first national demonstration: a dozen of homosexual groups, including the FLH from Montreal, gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to demand legislative and policy changes to end discrimination against gays and lesbians.

1972 – The first gay pride festivity solidarity marches, sponsored by Toronto Gay Action.

1973 – Start of the national pride week celebrations, which took place in different cities, including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

1979 – The first pride marches took place in Montreal and Vancouver.

The faces of pride

The change in attitudes would not have been the same without the public demonstrations of the LGBTQ2+ reality, and the coming out of notable people in the worlds of politics, music, film, TV and sports, who opened up about their sexual orientation or their gender identity. Those personalities lent visibility to the sexual and gender minorities, and helped dispel certain prejudices. Today, the different faces of sexual and gender diversity are increasingly present in the public domain, and offer positive role models for young people and society.

The following are some of the notable people who came out:

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Svend Robinson

1st federal Member of Parliament to publicly declare himself as homosexual – Elected in 1979 – He was a Member of Parliament until 2004 – He came out in 1988. He tabled several legislative bills on same-sex marriage.


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Libby Davies

1st openly lesbian federal Member of Parliament – Elected in 1997 – She was a Member of Parliament until 2015 – She came out in 2001.


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Kyle Ray

1st openly homosexual person to be elected to Toronto City Council – Elected in 1991 – She was a municipal councillor until 2010.


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Glenn Murray

1st openly homosexual mayor of a major city in North America (Winnipeg, Manitoba) – He was elected in 1998.


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Scott Brison

1st openly homosexual member of Cabinet (2004).


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Kathleen Wynne

1st openly homosexual person to be elected as a premier in Canada (Government of Ontario – 2013 to 2018).


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Eric Radford

1st homosexual athlete to win a gold medal at a Winter Olympic Games (South Korea, with his partner, Meagan Duhamel). This figure skater from Ontario came out in 2014 at the Sotchi Games.


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Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay

1st trans actress in Canada to be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award (2017 – Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Klas Batalo in the film Those who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves).


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Julie Lemieux

1st openly trans woman elected mayor in Canada (village of Très-Saint-Rédempteur, in Quebec, 2017).


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Jessica Platt

1st openly trans woman to play professional hockey (with the Toronto Furies of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League). She announced her coming out in January 2018.

Representation in the public domain

In the film and TV production industry, in literature and professional news media, in the worlds of sports, business, tourism and science, and more, LGBTQ2+ people and realities have quickly gained prominence over the past half century. Those people include artists, writers, playwrights, actors, humorists, directors, announcers, reporters, business people, scientists, athletes, etc.

Several movies present LGBTQ2+ themes and sexual diversity. Many cities in Canada have an LGBTQ2+ film festival. The first in Canada was the Festival international de cinéma LGBT de Montréal 1987.

Just for fun, here are a few of them!

Winter kept us warm (David Secter 1965), Fortune and men’s eyes (Harvey Hart 1971), Narcissus (Norman McLaren 1983), La femme de l’hôtel (Léa Pool 1984), No Skin off my ass (Bruce LaBruce 1991), the documentary entitled Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (Aerlyn Weissman and Lynne Fernie 1992), Fire (Deepa Mehta 1996), C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée 2005), I Killed My Mother (Xavier Dolan 2009) and a musical documentary, My Prairie Home (Chelsea McMullan 2013).

Coming Out by Mathieu Blanchard was the first TV series on LGBTQ2+ issues. The first episode was broadcast on Maclean-Hunter community TV station in Toronto.

In dramatic art, Fortune and men’s eyes by John Herbert (1967) addressed the treatment of homosexuals and living conditions in prisons. The play, adapted in feature film in 1971, celebrates the existence and rights of homosexuals. Hosanna and The Duchess of Langeais by Michel Tremblay, very popular in the early 70s, were among the first to introduce trans characters in Canadian theatre.

The first LGBTQ2+ publications in Canada included the monthly magazine The Body Politic, published in Toronto from 1971 to 1987; Long time coming, a lesbian magazine published in Montreal from June 1973 to 1976; Amazones d’hier, lesbiennes d’aujourd’hui, a radical quarterly lesbian review that first appeared in 1982. Today, newspapers and a multitude of magazines across the country address current affairs, health, culture, society, eroticism, lifestyles, fashion, etc.

For a record of the members and history of the LGBTQ2+, the Pink Triangle Press in 1973 founded the Canadian Gay Liberation Movement Archives, renamed the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives and, finally, The ArQuives. A key historical record of documents related to the LGBT community. Quebec has its version, the Archives gaies du Québec, established in 1983.

The pride flags

The rainbow flag was created in 1978 by San Francisco graphic designer and militant Gilbert Baker for the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade, which took placein San Francisco on June 25, 1978. They wanted a symbol to identify the gay and lesbian communities. Over time, that flag became a symbol of the movement for the affirmation and pride of LGBTQ2+ around the world.

The original version of the rainbow flag created by Baker had eight horizontal stripes of different colours, but, for a number of reasons, he had to modify it. The official rainbow flag has six horizontal stripes. Baker died in 2017, but according to his estate, the colours have the following meanings

  • red for life
  • orange for healing
  • yellow for the sun
  • green for nature
  • indigo for harmony
  • violet for spirituality

Just like the LGBTQ2+ acronym that evolves to encompass the many realities of sexual and gender diversity, over time new flags have appeared on the landscape of pride parades and elsewhere to signal those different realities.

Pride marches – Pride parades

In the early 70s, festivities started to be organized to attract LGBTQ2+ people. In 1973, national pride week was celebrated in several cities across Canada.

The pride marches that continue to this day started with the first liberation marches, where LGBTQ2 people expressed themselves against the oppression, persecution and discrimination of which they were victims. Even though the marches still serve as instruments for publicizing demands, they are mainly opportunities for visibility and festivities. The pride marches include special programs for families and trans people.

Stonewall, the symbol of LGBTQ2+ militancy in the United States and Canada

The first liberation march took place in the United States on June 28, 1970 to mark the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in June 1969 to demonstrate against a police raid. That event is considered the start of the fight for equal rights for LGBT people.

Pride march numbers

There are 122 Prides in Canada, of which 45 are members of Fierté Canada Pride (FCP). FCP is a non-profit national association of Canadian Pride organizations that was founded in 2004. FCP’s mission is to help build vibrant and strong Canadian Pride organization through collaborating, offering support, networking, helping to develop a national identity of Pride, and offering resources and advocacy for its members. There are 7,187 volunteers mobilized for the success of these festivities in the country.
Among the 122 Prides in Canada, the cities which attract the most people are:

Montreal 2 700 000
Toronto 1 600 000
Vancouver 650 000
Ottawa 125 000
Halifax 125 000
Calgary 65 000
Winnipeg 50 000
Edmonton 50 000
Quebec 30 000
Saskatoon 15 000

In 2017, 6,500,000 Canadians participated in Prides and 17,5% of them came from other cities outside the territory where the pride took place. You can find bellow the percentage of people who came from outside their city or town:

Whistler 95%
Montreal 40%
Toronto 39%
Ottawa 30%
Edmonton 15%
Calgary 11%
Vancouver 9%

Pride organizations have a strong presence on social media. The total of social media Facebook followers is 347,174 and the cities with the most of followers are:

Montreal 80 680
Toronto 72 904
Vancouver 11 509
Winnipeg 10 952
Halifax 10 297

Recognition days

Several days, weeks and months have been set to raise awareness about sexual diversity. Those days are opportunities to shine the spotlight on that kind of diversity and its issues here and around the world. 

  • March 31 – International Transgender Day of Visibility
  • 2nd Wednesday of April – International Day of Pink
  • April 26 – Lesbian Visibility Day
  • May 17 – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
  • May 24 – Pansexual Visibility Day
  • June – LGBT Pride Month
  • September 23 – Bisexuality Day
  • Week of September 23 – Bisexual Awareness Week
  • October – LGBT History Month
  • October 11 – National Coming Out Day
  • 3rd Wednesday in October – International Pronouns Day
  • 3rd Thursday in October – Spirit Day (anti-bullying)
  • Week of October 21 – Asexual Awareness Week
  • October 26 – Intersex Awareness Day
  • 1st Sunday of November – Trans Parent Day
  • 2nd week of November – Transgender Awareness Week
  • November 20 – Transgender Day of Remembrance
  • December 8 – Pansexual Pride Day