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A Brief History of Pride in Canada

June is pride month, a time to celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community and be reminded of all that has been done to pave the way for members of the community to live freely and express themselves.

(Western University students pictured at Pride, Toronto, Ontario)

When people think of the history of Pride, it almost always starts with the Stonewall riots that took place in New York. This moment in history was instrumental in terms of progress for the community, but Canada’s pride movement has its own history as well. Here’s a quick rundown of how we got to where we are today.

On August 28, 1971, a small group of people from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto gathered at Parliament Hill for Canada’s First Gay Liberation Protest and March. Here they presented the government with ten demands for equal rights and protection.

On December 15, 1973, homosexuality was removed as a "disorder” from the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

In January of 1974, The Brunswick Four - a group of four lesbian activists were arrested at the Brunswick Tavern in Toronto. This event is considered to be the tipping point for a more militant gay and lesbian liberation movement in Canada. It was one of the first occasions that a queer topic received extensive press coverage in Canada.

On October 22, 1977, Montreal police violently raided two gay bars. The next day, 2,000 people took to the streets to protest the raids. Protestors were met with violence from the police.

In 1978, The Immigration Act lifted the ban prohibiting homosexuals from immigration.

On February 5, 1981, Toronto police stormed four gay bathhouses as part of what they called "Operation Soap," and arrested about 300 men. The protests following this event were revolutionary, and are often referred to as Canada’s Stonewall.

August 1, 1981, Vancouver has its first official Pride parade

In July 1990, the term Two Spirit (niizh manidoowag) was coined at the third annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference in Winnipeg.

June 30, 1993, the Supreme Court decides that queer individuals can apply for refugee status if facing persecution in their countries of origin.

May 25, 1995, Sexual orientation became included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

October 29, 1995, City of London mayor, Dianne Haskett refused to officially recognize Pride weekend. The City of London and Mayor are fined $10,000.

June 20, 1996, Sexual Orientation is now included in Canadian Human Rights Act.

July 20, 2005, same-sex couples gain the right to marry, making Canada the fourth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage.

In June of 2014, ​​World Pride was held in Toronto, the first World Pride in North America, and the fourth ever international Pride festival.

June 19, 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code was updated to include the terms "gender identity" and "gender expression." It is now illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or expression.

December 8, 2021, the Criminal Code is amended to criminalize conversion therapy.

Although there is still much work to be done and progress to be made, it’s important to take time this Pride to honour and celebrate all the effort, losses and wins that have led us to where we are today.

The full history of Pride in Canada can be found here.


Keeping in mind the rich history of Pride, we sought to understand what Pride meant to social science students today. Here is what they said.

(Western University students pictured at Pride, Toronto, Ontario)

Abbey Johnson (AVP Student Events)

“To me, Pride means showing my support as an LGBTQ+ ally and celebrating individuals and the progress that has been made. Pride is all about acceptance, respect and love!”

Alex Lowell (Engagement Coordinator)

“Pride month to me is a time of solidarity and support towards the LGBTQ community - it promotes awareness and empathy”

Areeba (Social Events Commissioner)

“Pride means celebrating those who have the courage to be their authentic selves and showing support to those who are still getting there”

Brooklin Begg (Advocacy Engagement Coordinator)

“Pride, to me, means unabashedly being true to oneself. It is an ongoing fight of authenticity, and creating a community with those along for the fight. Pride is a word that gives me solidarity—by acknowledging everyone’s different orientations and experiences, we provide support. It’s for everyone.”

Carrie McCowan (Finance Coordinator)

“Pride is so wonderful as it celebrates the importance of being yourself. It emphasizes accepting everyone no matter how they express themselves or who they love.”

Daisy Fu (Impact Events Coordinator)

“Pride means the celebration of oneself and being truly proud of who you are”

Danny Tellez Jimenez (USC Councillor)

“Pride to me means acceptance, love and celebration. It is a bright beacon of courage, unity, and identity. It reminds us the importance of celebrating each one of us by who we are, cherishing and respecting our unique qualities! Pride creates a world where we can all shine and thrive by who we truly are.”

Ekisha Bahadur (Impact Events Coordinator)

"being comfortable enough in my own skin to share myself with others"

Jake Pollock (Social Events Commissioner)

“Pride means standing up for what you believe in”

Julia David (Wellness Events Commissioner)

“a celebration of freedom of expression. I think people of the LGBTQ2S+ community have fought for many years to be able to openly be who they are, and as a society we are thankfully moving towards a much needed acceptance. I think everyone, part of the community or not, should be welcoming and accepting of others and June is a month of awareness for that acceptance”

Rachel Rajaratnam (AVP Academics)

“To me, pride means being able to be unapologetically yourself”

Sima Kootar (Policy Research Analyst)

“To me, Pride month is the time of year where we celebrate those who far to often go uncelebrated. For many years now, the conversation about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community is spoken about in regards to acceptance/toleration. However, the community deserves far more than that. They deserve celebration, applause, support, and love.”

Stavros Liakakos (USC Councillor)

"Pride means to love and embrace one’s self who they truly are"

Yashvi Patel (AVP Advocacy)

“Pride means loving without labels”

Shreya Koli (Wellness Events Coordinator)

"Pride means standing alongside and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, recognizing the importance of equality and acceptance. It means taking pride in actively promoting inclusivity, challenging discrimination, and striving for a world where everyone can live authentically and without fear of prejudice."

Sachkirat Chahal (Professional Development Coordinator)

"Pride to me means supporting the right to love ourselves and others in any form or identity. I believe we should celebrate our individualities and fight for acceptance & love"

Maddie Chun (Student Appreciation Commissioner)

"Pride is the ability to freely express and love oneself"

Danae Pepelassis (Charity Events Commissioner)

"Pride month is a time for learning- both about the history of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and learning from them about how to be an ally."

- Happy Pride, from SSSC 🌈💙

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