Gay Pride Canada: Everything You Ever Needed To Know

Gay Pride is a worldwide celebration of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual) people that aims to end discrimination and violence through visibility, acceptance, and unwaivering support. Not everywhere across the globe has accepted their LGBT community with open arms, but Canada proudly supports Gay Pride from coast to coast.

Read this article. Learn everything there is to know about the history of Gay Pride Canada, the statistics of Gay Pride Canada, and Gay Pride Canada from coast to coast!

Gay Pride Canada: A History

For as long as there have been humans, there have been homosexual humans, and, as one would assume, as long as there have been Canadian citizens, there have been homosexual Canadian citizens. For hundreds of years, being gay was looked at as sinful and shameful—in fact, it still is in many parts of the world! However, over time men and women began to embrace their sexuality and accept the differences among people all over the world. When these acceptances turned into celebrations, that is when Gay Pride Canada really began.

Before there were Gay Pride Canada parades and rallies and festivals, there were more subtle forms of gay pride achievements, representations, and celebrations: books, magazines, poems, films, plays, and more. Whether these moments in time were the celebrations of individuals, groups, communities, cities, or the country; if they were an expression of pride in one’s true self as a LGBT person or of positive representation of the LGBT community, then they are considered a part of the history of Gay Pride Canada! In this article, we will outline many of the numerous events that dot the timeline of Gay Pride Canada, from one-time individual events to annual festivals that are attended by millions!

Way back in 1918, Elsa Gidlow and Roswell Mills launched the first underground LGBT magazine publication in all of Canadian and North American history. We here on ManPlay.com really consider this to be one of the first true expressions of gay pride, as it showcases the pride these individuals had in themselves and in the community of LGBT persons who they knew these zines would reach.

In 1964, Canada’s first gay-positive organization, ASK (Association for Social Knowledge) publishes one of Canada’s first official gay magazines: ASK Newsletter. The same year, Gay Publishing Company of Toronto publishes the magazine Gay, which was the first publication to use the word “gay” in its title. Both magazines gained popularity quickly, proving that the Gay Pride Canada movement was on the rise.

In 1965, David Secter became the first person to have a Canadian gay-themed independent film screen at the Cannes Film Festival with Winter Kept Us Warm. The same year, Edward A. Lacey publishes the first volume of openly gay-identified poetry in Canada with The Forms Of Life.

In 1967, Scott Symons publishes one of the first notable gay novels in Gay Pride Canada history: Place D’Armes. The same year, Canadian John Herbert premieres his landmark LGBT play Fortune and Men’s Eyes in New York City.

In 1972, a community cable channel in Toronto begins airing the first television series about Gay Pride Canada and LGBT issues: Coming Out.

In 1973, the first real Gay Pride Canada event took place. Between August 19th and August 26th, several cities across Canada (including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg) held simultaneous celebrations of Gay Pride Canada. They called this event Pride Week 1973. Some of the events included art shows, dances, picnics, LGBT documentary screenings, and a gay rights rally that occurred in all the participating cities. This event really marked the concept of gay pride that would be used in the creation of the more concrete Gay Pride Canada celebrations that would follow. Having all the cities collaborate and act in parallel, Pride Week 1973 showed the World that Gay Pride Canada was united and strong.

In 1977, Gay Pride Canada continued. The film Outrageous! is the first Canadian gay-themed film to get a mainstream theatrical release. It starred Canadian drag queen Craig Russell.

In 1978, the Buddies in Bad Times professional theatre company forms in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It still stands today and is Canada’s oldest LGBT dedicated theatre company. 1978 is also the year that Canada gets its first Gay Pride Canada radio program: Gay News and Views on CKMS-FM in Kitchener-Waterloo.

In 1984, the first LGBT newspaper, Xtra!, is launched in Toronto. In following years, additional editions are launched in Ottawa and Vancouver.

In 1987 and 1988, respectively, the CODCO and The Kids In The Hall sketch comedy television series are launched. Both programs include openly gay cast members and several sketches that play a prominent role in the positive representation of LGBT characters.

In 1992, the first beer of Gay Pride Canada, Pride Lager, is introduced by The Brick Brewing Company of Waterloo.

In 1996, the television show Love Handles (a Canadian version of the United States’ The Newlywed Game) includes same-sex couples among its contestants.

In 2001, the first LGBT-focused television channel, PrideVision, is launched.

In 2007, the first Gay Pride Canada radio station, 103.9 Proud FM, comes into being.

In 2010, the Winter Olympics are held in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia. The ‘Pride House’ for LGBT athletes in Whistler is the first of its kind in the Olympics.

In 2012, Vancouver resident Jenna Talackova is the first transgender woman to compete in the Miss Universe pageant. She is one of four contestants to receive the “Miss Congeniality” title.

In 2015, 84-year-old Toronto resident Michelle DuBarry is named World’s Oldest Performing Drag Queen by the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 2016 and beyond? We will just have to wait and see what the future holds for Gay Pride Canada! We know what you are thinking though… what about the real Gay Pride Canada? Where do the festivals and parades and rallies comes in? Well, politically speaking, the event that really kicked off Gay Pride Canada celebrations happened on February 5th of 1981. “Operation Soap”, the raiding of four Toronto bathhouses, was executed by the Toronto Police Service. Sick of being mistreated and targeted by the police, the LGBT community of Toronto mobilized in a community protest of previously unheard of numbers. This event has since become known as the equivalent to the United States’ Stonewall Riots and its anniversary has become the starting point of many Gay Pride Canada celebrations.

Gay Pride Canada: By The Numbers

Vancouver Pride Festival is the third largest Gay Pride Canada event and boasts the largest parade of any kind in Western Canada with over 150 cars, floats, and marching units. The festival and parade draw over 200,000 participants each year. Gay Pride Vancouver includes over 20 events throughout the summer, including live performances, block parties, fundraising walks, drag acts, dances, and more. Gay Pride Vancouver’s past Gay Pride Canada themes have included “Educate, Liberate, Celebrate”, “Gender Superheroes”, and “Better Together”.

Fierté Montréal (known in English as Montréal Pride) is the second largest Gay Pride Canada event and the largest LGBT event in Quebec. It runs for seven consecutive days every year in mid-August and draws between 250,000 and 500,000 participants. Gay Pride Montréal includes a parade, a community day, and live performances. Fierté Montréal’s Gay Pride Canada themes often focus on one colour of the rainbow flag, including “Our Flag, Our Life” (Red), “Our Flag, Our Fire” (Orange), “Our Flag, Our Energy” (Yellow), and “Our Flag, Our Nature” (Green). Other themes have included “Our Flag, Our Pride”, “The Power of the Four Elements”, and “Here Comes The Circus!”.

The largest Gay Pride Canada event, Toronto Pride Week, draws between 500,000 to over one million people over the 10-day festival each and every year. In 2014, Toronto Pride Week held North America’s first ever World Pride event, which drew significantly more participants. The festival covers 22 city blocks and is closed off to traffic. Toronto Pride Week includes live performances, art shows, panels, film screenings, street fairs, licensed venues and all kinds of parties, and three walks: the Trans March, the Dyke March, and the Pride Parade, which draws over 100,000 participants yearly. Past Gay Pride Canada themes have included “Fearless”, “Unstoppable!”, “Unified”, “Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.”, and “Celebrating 30 Years of Pride in Toronto”. In 2016, Toronto will be hosting the first ever Gay Pride Canada Month. Also for the first time ever, a sitting Prime Minister will be attending the event: Justin Trudeau.

Other noteworthy Gay Pride Canada events include: AIDS Walk for Life, Bal en Blanc, Black and Blue Festival, Canadian Rockies International Rodeo, Divers/Cité, Fairy Tales International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Fête Arc-en-ciel, Friends For Life Bike Rally, Hot & Dry Weekend, image+nation, Inside Out Film and Video Festival, Leather Ball, London Lesbian Film Festival, Mr. Leather Ottawa, Mr. Vancouver Leather, Out East Film Festival, Prism Toronto, Rapture: Vancouver, Reel Pride, Rainbow Reels, Queer Arts Festival, Queer Beer Festival, Toronto Bound Weekend, Toronto Leather Pride, Twist Week End, and Vancouver Queer Film and Video Festival.

Gay Pride Canada: Coast To Coast

Everywhere from capital and major cities (including Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Halifax, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Victoria, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, etc.) to small and rural towns (including Quesnel, Sechelt, Okanagan, Thompson, Guelph, Kitchener, Timmins, Kingston, Brantford, Kenora, Simcoe, Brockville, etc.) have Gay Pride Canada celebrations. It would take a lifetime to truly experience each and every aspect of all the Gay Pride Canada celebrations, but here on ManPlay.com we have done our best to dig up some of our favourites.

Here are some of the biggest Gay Pride Canada events that you will find in this beautiful country:

YUKON: Gay Pride Whitehorse

Something that you might not know about Canada's Great White North is that most of the year the sun doesn’t go down, hence the name Gay Pride Whitehorse is given for their celebrations 24 Hours of Gaylight which is a pretty clever name if you think about it. In this… Read more.

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Gay Pride Vancouver

What makes Vancouver such a great place to hang out and take in the pride celebrations isn't just the incredible natural beauty it has to offer, it's also the fact that Vancouver isn't just home to one, but two incredible gay districts: the Commercial Drive area, and the West End… Read more.

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Gay Pride Whistler

What makes Gay Pride Whistler different from any other Gay Pride event around the world? It's the only Gay Pride Winter Ski Festival as well! And it's all nestled in the middle of a quaint and stylish gay-friendly community, jam-packed full of hotels, restaurants, boutiques, and happy smiles. But that's… Read more.

ALBERTA: Gay Pride Calgary

The province of Alberta is home to some of the most “manly of men,” leaving the stigma that the gay community isn’t up to those heteronormative expectations, not to mention that traditionally Alberta is more of a conservative state. This leaves many homosexual men hiding their true nature to their… Read more.

ALBERTA: Gay Pride Edmonton

In Edmonton they host the annual Edmonton Pride Festival every year in June and it is hosted by the non-profit organization Edmonton Pride Festival Society. The gay pride Edmonton parade is held in a different way than most other pride parades. They host the parade towards the beginning of the… Read more.

MANITOBA: Gay Pride Winnipeg

Gay Pride Winnipeg is known as the “Pride of the Prairies”! It is one of the biggest gay pride events in Canada (between Gay Pride Vancouver and Gay Pride Toronto) and worldwide. It started out as a one-day event and has blossomed into a full-fledged 10-day festival celebrating Winnipeg’s diverse… Read more.

ONTARIO: Gay Pride Toronto

From its honourable activist roots, Gay Pride Toronto has grown from a group of justice-seeking citizens trying to shed light on LBGTQ issues to one of the largest celebrations of gay culture which is home to over 1,000,000 attendees a year! With an array of activities ranging from activism, art,... Read more.

ONTARIO: Gay Pride Niagara Falls

The Gay Pride Niagara Falls celebrations have been running since 2010, and is held in St. Catharines. The celebrations were created to encompass all of the Niagara Region, which includes Fort Erie, Grimsby, Lincoln, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Pelham, Port Colborne, St. Catharines, Thorold, Wainfleet, Welland and West Lincoln. The Gay… Read more.

ONTARIO: Gay Pride Ottawa

Ottawa’s first gay pride celebration was a picnic in Strathcona Park, a park located in central Ottawa in June 1986. The park's address is 25 Range Road, and lies on the west bank of the Rideau River and marks the eastern edge of the Sandy Hill neighbourhood. There were about… Read more.

QUEBEC: Gay Pride Montréal

Ever since its founding in Canada, Montréal has been known as a city of diverse tastes and cultures—where peoples lives, desires, and experiences are shared and explored. An area of the country that has classically been accepting of how people show their love, it is not only a favourite… Read more.

QUEBEC: Gay Pride Quebec City

The French Canadien city, and capital city of the province of Quebec, Quebec City, had its first Gay Pride festival over Labour Day weekend in 2002 to commemorate the province's 25th anniversary of the bill of rights passing, which outlawed the discrimination based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately a few anti-gay… Read more.

NOVA SCOTIA: Gay Pride Halifax

If you were to ask a random guy on the street what one of the best Gay Pride Celebrations in Canada was, chances are he wouldn't think of Halifax - but he would be dead wrong. Gay Pride Halifax is one of the most event-packed and exciting Gay Pride celebrations in… Read more.

And there you have it. You have reached the end of ManPlay.com’s Gay Pride Canada article. From all the individuals who celebrated their personal gay pride to the millions of LGBT community members, allies, supporters, and who participate in Gay Pride Canada parades, rallies, and festivals each and every year all around Canada—we think we have done a pretty good job of covering it all.

Gay Pride Resources

If you would still like to learn more about Gay Pride Canada or Gay Pride celebrations throughout Canada, explore the links above or check out the resources below:

1. Daily Xtra: Official Website
2. Gay Pride Toronto: Official Website
3. Gay Pride Montréal: Official Website
4. Gay Pride Vancouver: Official Website

Do not forget to check out our pages on Gay Pride US and Gay Pride UK! You will be amazed at how much you never knew about Gay Pride around the world!