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Pride Toronto Votes to Keep Police Out of Parade
Members of Pride Toronto voted 163–161 to prevent uniformed police officers from participating in the city’s annual pride parade and related events, reversing a decision made by Pride Toronto’s board of directors in October. Police were barred from marching in the parade in 2017 and 2018 in response to a Black Lives Matter protest that halted the parade in 2016. Members of Toronto’s LGBTQ2+ community were also critical of the Toronto Police Service’s handling of several disappearances and murders in Toronto’s gay village.
Serial Killer Bruce McArthur Sentenced to Life in Prison
After pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, Bruce McArthur was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The 67-year-old former landscaper took his victims from Toronto’s gay village, dismembered them and hid the remains in yards and planter boxes owned by his clients.
Svend Robinson, politician, activist (born 4 March 1952 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States). Robinson was NDP Member of Parliament for Burnaby, British Columbia from 1979 to 2004. In 1988, he became the first member of Parliament to openly identify as gay. Robinson resigned from politics in 2004 after pleading guilty to the theft of a ring; he was subsequently diagnosed with cyclothymia, a type of bipolar disorder. Both within and outside Parliament, he has advocated for environmental protection, the right to physician-assisted death, LGBTQ2 rights and mental health. In January 2019, Robinson announced that he was running for election to Parliament as the NDP candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour. However, he was defeated by Liberal incumbent Terry Beech in the October 2019 federal election.
We Demand was a 13-page document that called for changes to discriminatory federal laws and policies concerning gays, bisexuals, and lesbians in Canada. The brief, which contained ten points, was presented to the federal government in 1971. It set a national strategy that was pursued for decades until all the demands were met.
Kathleen O’Day Wynne, 25th premier of Ontario 2013–18, member of provincial parliament 2003–present, school trustee, community activist, mediator, teacher (born 21 May 1953 in Toronto, ON). The skills of a mediator, coupled with a strong sense of will, propelled Kathleen Wynne’s political career, making her Ontario’s first woman premier and Canada’s first openly gay head of government.
Pat Patterson (born Pierre Clermont), wrestler, promoter, executive (born 19 January 1941 in Montreal, QC; died 2 December 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida). Pat Patterson was one of the biggest stars in professional wrestling in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He was also the first openly gay professional wrestler. He came out publicly in 2014 when he was an executive with the WWE, but he never made a secret of his sexuality behind the scenes. He was released from WWE following sexual harassment allegations in 1992 but was rehired after the charges were dropped. He was inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame in 1996.
Loonie Commemorating LGBTQ2S Milestone Unveiled
The Royal Canadian Mint unveiled a new loonie commemorating the 50th anniversary of federal legislation that, according to the agency, “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada” and led to “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.” However, many LGBTQ2S advocates were critical of the coin, saying it erroneously implies that LGBTQ2S individuals have achieved full equality and have done so thanks to the federal government. (See also Canada’s Cold War Purge of LGBTQ from Public Service.)
The 1969 Amendment and the (De)criminalization of Homosexuality
From the earliest days of colonization to 1969, sodomy laws made sex between men illegal in Canada. In addition, a law enacted in 1892 made “gross indecency” between men illegal. This included anything that indicated same-sex attraction, including simple touching, dancing and kissing. The law was extended to women in 1953. In 1969, however, sodomy and gross indecency laws were changed, making such acts legal under some circumstances. The parties involved had to be 21 years of age or older and conduct their affairs in private. Sodomy and gross indecency remained illegal outside of the home or if three or more individuals were involved or present. Thus, Canada’s Criminal Code continued to equate homosexuality with criminal behaviour under many circumstances.
Anglican Church Reverses Position on Same-Sex Marriage
The Anglican Church of Canada held a second vote in three years to approve same-sex marriage. The first vote in 2016 passed, but the second vote did not receive enough votes among the church’s bishops, even though lay voters and clergy members approved the motion. The church did, however, pass a motion allowing individual dioceses to handle the issue as they see fit. The church had been performing same-sex marriage ceremonies since the first vote passed in 2016.
Michelle Douglas, LGBTQ activist and advocate, humanitarian, civil servant (born 30 December 1963 in Ottawa,ON). Michelle Douglas began a promising career in the Canadian Armed Forces in 1986 but was honourably discharged for being a lesbian. She launched a successful lawsuit against the military that resulted in the end of its discriminatory policy against gays and lesbians. Douglas has gone on to work with numerous charitable organizations and was director of international relations at the Department of Justice. In September 2019, she became executive director of the LGBT Purge Fund.
Canada’s Cold War Purge of LGBTQ from the Military
For much of its history, the Canadian military had a policy of punishing or purging LGBTQ members among their ranks. During the Cold War, the military increased its efforts to identify and remove suspected LGBTQ servicemen and women due to expressed concerns about blackmail and national security. In 1992, a court challenge led to the reversal of these discriminatory practices. The federal government officially apologized in 2017.
Rough Trade was a trailblazing, politically charged, punk-inspired New Wave rock band. It was formed in Toronto in 1975 by multi-instrumentalist Kevan Staples and Manchester-born, Scarborough-raised vocalist Carole Pope. Notorious for the openly sexual nature of their songs and the burlesque theatricality of their live performances — which often included bondage and sexual satire — the band was one of the first mainstream musical acts to include explicitly gay and lesbian references. They enjoyed critical and commercial success in the early 1980s and won four Juno Awards before disbanding in 1986. They are perhaps best known for the risqué, controversial hit single “High School Confidential,” which was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in September 2020.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada
Since the late 1960s, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Canada has seen steady gains in rights. While discrimination against LGBT people persists in many places, major strides toward mainstream social acceptance and formal legal equality have nonetheless been made in recent decades. Canada is internationally regarded as a leader in this field. Recent years have seen steady progress on everything from health care to the right to adopt. In 2005, Canada became the fourth country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriage.
Federal Government Cracks Down on Conversion Therapy
The federal government called on all provinces and territories to ban what it called the “shameful” and “cruel” practice of conversion therapy. The practice aims to convert people from homosexuality to heterosexuality through a combination of religious and psychological counselling. A statement issued by the government also noted that the therapy “has no scientific basis” and “can lead to life-long trauma… [W]e are actively examining potential Criminal Code reforms to better prevent, punish, and deter this discredited and dangerous practice.”
John Benjamin Clark Watkins, diplomat, scholar (born 3 December 1902 in Norval (now Halton Hills), ON; died 12 October 1964 in Montreal, QC). John Watkins was Canadian ambassador to the USSR from 1954 to 1956. In 1955, Watkins organized a historic meeting between Canadian External Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson and Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union.
Lilly Saini Singh, actor, comedian, author, television host (born 26 September 1988 in Scarborough, ON). Internet personality Lilly Singh has amassed nearly 15 million subscribers and more than 3 billion views since launching her popular channel of YouTube videos under the name IISuperwomanII in 2010. She has since appeared as an actor in films and TV series and published the book How To Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life (2017), which topped the New York Times Business Best Sellers list. In 2017, she ranked No. 10 on Forbes’ list of the world’s highest-paid YouTube stars and won a People’s Choice Award for Favorite YouTube Star. In 2019, NBC announced that Singh would be the host of a new late-night talk show premiering in September of that year called A Little Late with Lilly Singh. She is an outspoken mental health and anti-bullying advocate and came out as bisexual in 2019.
Canada’s Cold War Purge of LGBTQ from Public Service
Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Canadian government responded to national security concerns generated by Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union by spying on, exposing and removing suspected LGBTQ individuals from the federal public service and the Canadian Armed Forces. They were cast as social and political subversives and seen as targets for blackmail by communist regimes seeking classified information. These characterizations were justified by arguments that people who engaged in same-sex relations suffered from a “character weakness” and had something to hide because their sexuality was considered a taboo and, under certain circumstances, was illegal. As a result, the RCMP investigated large numbers of people. Many of them were fired, demoted or forced to resign — even if they had no access to security information. These measures were kept out of public view to prevent scandal and to keep counter-espionage operations under wraps. In 2017, the federal government issued an official apology for its discriminatory actions and policies, along with a $145-million compensation package.