Timeline of LGBT history in Canada

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This is a timeline of notable events in the history of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Canada.

17th century[edit]

  • 1648: A gay military drummer stationed at the French garrison in Ville-Marie, New France is sentenced to death for sodomy by the local Sulpician priests.[1] After an intervention by the Jesuits in Quebec City, the drummer's life is spared on the condition that he accept the position of New France's first permanent executioner.[1] As only the drummer was placed on trial, the widespread consensus of many historians is that his sexual partner may have been a First Nations man who was not subject to French religious law.[2] In his 2006 book Répression des homosexuels au Québec et en France, historian Patrice Corriveau identifies the drummer as "René Huguet dit Tambour",[3] although other historians have challenged this identification as no known historical records place a person of that name in New France any earlier than 1680.[4]
  • 1691: Military officer Nicolas Daussy de Saint-Michel and two commoners, Jean Forgeron dit La Rose and Jean Filliau dit Dubois, are arrested on charges of sodomy.[2] Saint-Michel, highly knowledgeable about the law, refuses to cooperate with the investigation, successfully arguing that under France's Grande ordonnance criminelle of 1670 a charge of sodomy could only be investigated by the Sovereign Council of New France rather than the local bailiwick; the case is transferred to Quebec City, where the council ultimately finds all three guilty.[5] Dubois and La Rose are sentenced to additional time in the military, while Saint-Michel is fined 200 livres and exiled back to France.[2]

18th century[edit]

  • 1738: The arrival of Esther Brandeau, a young Jewish woman disguised as a boy and using the male pseudonym Jacques La Fargue, causes a minor scandal in Quebec City.[6]

19th century[edit]

  • 1810: Alexander Wood, a merchant and magistrate in Toronto, is embroiled in a sex scandal when he investigates a rape case by personally inspecting the penises of the suspected assailants for a scratch left by the woman who filed the rape charge.[7]
  • 1838: George Herchmer Markland, a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada, is forced to resign his seat after facing allegations of making sexual advances towards other men.[8]
  • 1842: Patrick Kelly and Samuel Moore, the first two men in Canada historically recorded as having been criminally convicted of sodomy for what the court records clearly describe as consensual sexual activity, arrive at Kingston Penitentiary.[9] Both men were sentenced to death, although their sentences are commuted on August 22; Moore is released from prison in 1849 and Kelly is released in 1853.[9]




  • In the Montreal literary magazine First Statement, John Sutherland publishes a review of the poetry of Patrick Anderson, intuiting homoerotic themes and accusing Anderson of "some sexual experience of a kind not normal".[11] Although Anderson would in fact come out as gay later in life, he was married to a woman at the time; he threatened to sue, and First Statement printed a retraction in its following issue.[11]


  • John Herbert, an Eaton's employee and part-time drag queen, is arrested in Toronto for being dressed as a woman in public, and is sentenced to four months in a youth detention centre.[12] His experience in jail will later inspire his 1967 play Fortune and Men's Eyes, a landmark in the history of both LGBT literature and general theatre in Canada.[12]


  • Jim Egan, a Toronto native who would later become a co-plaintiff in the landmark legal case Egan v. Canada, begins writing letters to newspapers and magazines protesting depictions of homosexuality and calling for reform of laws regarding homosexual Canadians.[13] He writes his letters until 1964, when he and his partner move to British Columbia.[13]


The RCMP, throughout the late 1950s and the entirety of the 1960s, kept tabs on homosexuals and the patrons of gay bars in Ottawa and other cities. The force also worked with the FBI's own surveillance of homosexuals and alerted the FBI when a suspected homosexual had crossed the border to the United States.


  • Jackie Shane, a gay rhythm and blues singer from Toronto who frequently performed in drag, has a chart hit with "Any Other Way".[14] The song's lyrics include an explicit and deliberate play on the dual meaning of the word "gay".


  • The RCMP Directorate of Security and Intelligence's A-3 Unit (a unit dedicated to rooting out and removing all homosexuals from government and law enforcement, itself a subsection of the A Unit dedicated to finding out character flaws in government employees in the aftermath of the Second Red Scare) produced a map of Ottawa replete with red dots marking all alleged residences and frequent visitations of homosexuals. However, the map was soon filled with red ink and was disposed, and after two larger maps of the city being used to a similar purpose and outcome, the mapping soon ended.[15]


  • Canada sees its first gay-positive organization, ASK, and first gay magazines: ASK Newsletter (in Vancouver), and Gay (by Gay Publishing Company of Toronto). Gay was the first periodical to use the term 'Gay' in the title and expanded quickly, including outstripping the distribution of American publications under the name Gay International. These were quickly followed by Two (by Gayboy (later Kamp) Publishing Company of Toronto).[16][17]
  • Journalist Sydney Katz publishes "The Homosexual Next Door", one of the first articles in a mainstream Canadian publication ever to portray homosexuality in a relatively positive light, in Maclean's.[18]


  • Winter Kept Us Warm, a gay-themed independent film by David Secter, becomes the first English Canadian film to be given a screening at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • Poet Edward A. Lacey publishes The Forms of Life, credited as the first volume of openly gay-identified poetry in Canadian literature.[19]
  • George Klippert, the last person in Canada ever to be imprisoned for homosexuality before its legalization in 1969, is arrested and charged with four counts of "gross indecency" after admitting to a police investigator that he had consensual sex with men.







  • August 28: We Demand, Canada's first gay public protest, occurs in Ottawa on Parliament Hill.[23]
  • November 1: The Body Politic begins publishing.[24]





  • The collective responsible for publication of The Body Politic formally incorporates as Pink Triangle Press.[24]
  • Maurice Richard, one of Canada's first-ever out LGBT politicians, is elected mayor of Bécancour, Quebec. Contemporary biographical sources indicate that he came out as gay sometime during his term as mayor, but are not clear about what year this occurred in.
  • March 4 - The "Ottawa Sex Scandal" begins when eighteen gay men, the owner and several customers of a modelling agency and dating service, are arrested and charged with sexual offences. Their names are released by police and published by the press; at least one of the men, Warren Zufelt, commits suicide on March 18 because of his outing.
  • April: The Aquarius bathhouse in Montreal is firebombed.[37] The perpetrators are never found or arrested.[37] Three customers die in the resulting fire; two of them are buried in anonymous graves because their bodies are never identified or claimed by their families.[37]
  • July 7 - A Gay Caucus is formed at the national convention of the New Democratic Party, marking the first LGBT-oriented committee within a mainstream political party in Canada.
  • September 22 - University of Saskatchewan graduate student Douglas Wilson is barred from working as a teaching assistant because of his participation in the gay liberation movement.



  • March 14 - Windsor, Ontario becomes the third city in Canada to pass a motion banning discrimination against city employees on the basis of sexual orientation.
  • May 9 - Barbara Thornborrow becomes the first member of the Canadian Forces to challenge a discharge from the military on the grounds of her sexuality.
  • June 9: Two openly gay candidates, Therese Faubert of the League for Socialist Action in Brampton and Frank Lowery of the Ontario New Democratic Party in Scarborough North, are on the ballot in the 1977 Ontario provincial election.[40]
  • August: Toronto residents learn of the sexual assault and murder of the boy Emanuel Jaques by three men, resulting in media coverage which unfairly paints the entire gay community as pedophiles.
  • October: Two gay establishments in Montreal, Mystique and Truxx, are raided.[41] A protest organized the next day attracts 2,000 participants. By December, the province of Quebec becomes the second jurisdiction in the world, behind only Denmark, to pass a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[41]
  • November: The Body Politic publishes Gerald Hannon's article "Men Loving Boys Loving Men", resulting in a five-year legal battle over whether the magazine was guilty of publishing "immoral, indecent or scurrilous material".[24]





  • October 31 - For the first time, a police presence protects gay spectators and drag queens from anti-gay harassment at the annual Hallowe'en show at Toronto's St. Charles Tavern.
  • December - At the last caretaker meeting of Tecumseh, Ontario's municipal council following the 1980 municipal elections, outgoing reeve and unsuccessful mayoral candidate Cameron Frye acknowledges that he is gay.[46] The campaign had been marked by rumours about Frye's sexuality, including the distribution of hate literature claiming that Frye would promote a "gay lifestyle" as mayor and would lead the town into "moral decay",[47] although Frye refused to address the rumours about his sexuality during the campaign.[29]


  • February 5: Four bathhouses in Toronto are raided by the Toronto Police Service in Operation Soap. The event is now considered one of the crucial turning points in Canadian LGBT history, as an unprecedented community mobilization — now regarded as the Canadian equivalent of the 1969 Stonewall riots[48] — took place to protest police conduct. One of the protest marches during this mobilization is now generally recognized as the first Toronto Pride event.[49]
  • May 30: Pisces Health Spa in Edmonton, Alberta is raided by the City of Edmonton Police after a lengthly undercover investigation by the then called Morality Control Unit. Many of the 56 men police arrested eventually pleaded guilty, despite the fact that there was no evidence to suggest prostitutes were working in the spa, nor that minors were enticed to enter. Undercover police officers had acted as patrons of the Pisces Health Spa. A letter written by then Morality Control Unit Staff Sgt. J.W. Torgerson stated "For policemen...to associate with members of the 'gay' community on equal basis is worthy of note. Not only did they associate with these individuals, but also were subjected to sexual advances as well as observing personally revolting acts such as fellation and anal intercourse between males, (and)lastly, being recognized and treated as a gay person by members of the spa".[50]



  • April 20: The Back Door Gym, one of the establishments raided in 1981, is raided again. This raid is protested on April 23. No further bathhouse raids take place in the 1980s. The warrant used in this raid was declared invalid by the courts on October 3, 1984.[citation needed]
  • July 23: A firebombing attack on Henry Morgentaler's abortion clinic in Toronto also results in significant damage to the Toronto Women's Bookstore, one of Canada's most important venues for feminist and lesbian literature.[51]





  • February: Pink Triangle Press ceases publication of The Body Politic.[24]


  • The Kids in the Hall, a sketch comedy series whose cast includes the openly gay Scott Thompson, debuts on CBC Television. Sketches such as Thompson's character Buddy Cole and the ensemble sketch "The Steps" were among the most visible representations of gay culture on Canadian television during the show's run.


  • March 19: Joe Rose, a young gay activist in Montreal, is stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers who targeted him for having pink hair. The incident later inspires educator Michael Whatling, who had been a classmate of Rose's at the time of his death, to publish A Vigil for Joe Rose, an exploration of the struggles faced by LGBT students.[56]
  • August 21: Alain Brosseau, a straight man in Ottawa, is attacked by a gang of teenagers who wrongly assumed he was gay, while walking home from his job at the Château Laurier.[57] The attackers chase him through Major's Hill Park to the Alexandra Bridge, and then throw him off the bridge resulting in his death.[57] This results in a gay and lesbian community outcry and eventually leads to the formation of the Ottawa Police Service's GLBT Liaison Committee two years later.[57]




  • Following the Alain Brosseau incident of 1989, the Ottawa Police Service forms Canada's first LGBT Police Liaison Committee, with members of both the city's LGBT community and the Ottawa Police force, sitting on it, as well as Canada's first police unit specifically dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.[57]
  • Kyle Rae is elected as the first openly gay member of Toronto City Council.



  • February 25: A Supreme Court of Canada case, Canada (AG) v Mossop, rules against Brian Mossop's appeal after he is denied employment leave to attend the funeral of his partner Ken Popert's father.[62] Despite the ruling, the case is significant as the first Supreme Court case to explicitly take up a question of LGBT equality rights.
  • July 12: Unknown persons toss three Molotov cocktails at the front door of the St. Marc Spa in Toronto. Bomb threats are also called in against Woody's, Bar 501 and the offices of Xtra! the following night.[63]
  • October 16 - CBC Radio's The Inside Track, a documentary series about social and cultural issues in sport, airs "The Last Closet", a one-hour special on homophobia in sports. The episode is noted for featuring voice-filtered interviews with two anonymous gay Canadian athletes who were not yet prepared to officially come out; they would later be revealed as Mark Leduc and Mark Tewksbury.[64]
  • March 1993 - In the precedent-setting Ontario Human Rights Commission case Waterman vs. National Life, insurance company National Life is ordered to pay $23,390 in damages to Jan Waterman, a part-time employee who had an offer of full-time employment with the company rescinded after she came out as lesbian.[65]



  • unknown date: The Nu West Steam Bath in New Westminster, British Columbia is raided by its new landlords, who enter the premises and cause damage with the express intention of evicting the facility from their property.[63]
  • May 25: In the Egan v. Canada decision, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that freedom from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a protected right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.[66] Despite this, the court rules against Jim Egan on the issue of spousal pension benefits that was the core of the case,[66] finding that the restriction of spousal benefits was a justified infringement on the grounds that the core purpose of the benefits was to provide financial support to women who had spent their lives as housewives and mothers without earning their own independent income.[66]


  • May: During debate on Bill C33, which would formally add sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act, two Reform Party MPs, David Chatters and Bob Ringma, are suspended from the party caucus after making controversial comments.[68] Ringma is quoted as saying that employers should have the right to move openly gay employees to "the back of the shop" if their presence offends the business's customers, while Chatters asserts that schools should have the right to fire openly gay teachers.[68] A third Reform Party MP, Jan Brown, is also suspended at the same time for publicly criticizing Chatters and Ringma. All three are readmitted to the Reform caucus by September.


  • October 28: Glen Murray is elected mayor of Winnipeg, becoming Canada's and North America's first openly gay mayor of a major city.[69]


  • June 3: George Smitherman is elected in the Ontario provincial election, becoming Ontario's first openly gay MPP.
  • The National Archives of Canada release previously-sealed personal papers from former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton, 24 years after her death. The released documents include a series of intimate personal letters between Whitton and Margaret Grier, a woman with whom Whitton lived in a Boston marriage until Grier's death. The release of these papers sparked much debate in the Canadian media about whether Whitton and Grier's relationship could be characterized as lesbian, or merely as an emotionally intimate friendship between two unmarried women.[70]



  • September 14: Five police officers raid Pussy Palace, a women's bathhouse event in Toronto. No charges were laid against customers, although police recorded the names of ten women, and two organizers, Rachael Aitcheson and J.P. Hornick, were charged under the bawdyhouse law. Subsequent protest action characterizes the event as essentially little more than a panty raid — a march on the offices of the Toronto Police Services' 52 Division on October 28 features protestors, both male and female, waving women's underwear in the air.[71]



  • December 12: Goliath's, a bathhouse in Calgary, Alberta, is raided by Calgary Police. Charges move very slowly through the courts; the Crown ultimately drops all charges against customers of the bathhouse in December 2004, but proceeds with charges against the bathhouse owners.[63]


  • November 15: With same-sex marriage recognized by the courts, British Columbia cabinet minister Ted Nebbeling becomes Canada's first serving cabinet minister to legally marry his same-sex partner.[75]


  • March 24: Gay Ontario MPP Dominic Agostino dies of cancer. Controversy results when initial media reports of his death state that he was married to a woman.[76]


  • July 19: The federal Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage across Canada, is given royal assent.


  • November - Divers/Cité, Montreal's primary LGBT pride festival since 1993, decides to reposition itself as a general arts and music festival.[79] A new group, Fierté Montréal, incorporates to take over the management of the pride festival.[79] Both events continue to coexist, at separate times during the summer, until Divers/Cité folds in 2015.


  • April 16: 103.9 Proud FM, Canada's first LGBT radio station and the first in the world operated by a commercial broadcaster rather than a community non-profit group, is launched in Toronto.


  • November 3: A lesbian couple, Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou, are physically assaulted while waiting to pick up their son at Gordon B. Attersley Public School in Oshawa, Ontario by Mark Scott, the parent of another child at the school.[84] Over 300 people gather outside Oshawa City Hall on November 14 to protest the incident.[85] The Durham Regional Police Service later announce that the incident will not be prosecuted as a hate crime, as Scott neither advocated genocide nor incited anyone else to join in the attack.[86]


  • February 5: Ryan Cran, one of the killers in the Aaron Webster incident of 2001, is released on parole after serving four years of a six-year sentence.[87]
  • March 5: Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General announces that they have concluded their hate crimes investigation in the David Popescu incident of 2008, and officially charge Popescu with two counts of willful promotion of hatred, under Section 319(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada. His court appearance is scheduled for April 15.
  • March 13: Shawn Woodward is charged with aggravated assault after physically attacking 62-year-old Ritchie Dowrey in Vancouver's Fountainhead Pub, allegedly because "He’s a faggot. He deserved it."[88] Dowrey had briefly bumped into Woodward's shoulder, which the heterosexual Woodward characterized during his trial as a predatory sexual advance.[89] Although Dowrey survived the assault, he suffered serious and permanent brain damage, and spent the entire rest of his life living in care facilities until his death in 2015.[90]



  • February 17: During Olympic coverage on the French-language sports network RDS, commentators Claude Mailhot and Alain Goldberg suggest that figure skater Johnny Weir should undergo a gender test to see if he should be competing as a woman.[94] The Quebec Council of Gays and Lesbians subsequently files a complaint with the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.[95]
  • August: Shawn Woodward, who physically assaulted Ritchie Dowrey in Vancouver's Fountainhead Pub (see March 13, 2009), is found guilty of assault.[89] Justice Jocelyn Palmer rejects Woodward's defense that Dowrey had groped him, ultimately finding that "[Woodward's] intention was to deny, deflect and dissemble. He fabricated this story to justify his outrageous assault."[89] He is subsequently sentenced to six years in jail on November 8.[98]
  • October 18: The home of a gay couple in Little Pond, Prince Edward Island is firebombed.[100] Both men escaped the fire unharmed, but their home was destroyed. In late October and November, a series of rallies and fundraising concerts is held in both Little Pond and Charlottetown to support the couple and to oppose homophobic violence.[101]


  • January 10: In a ruling by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" is effectively banned from Canadian radio airplay after a gay resident of St. John's files a complaint because the lyrics contain the derogatory slur "faggot".[102] The ruling is later rescinded on August 31, with the council leaving it to individual radio stations' discretion whether or not to play the song.[103]
  • October 14: Jamie Hubley, the son of Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley, commits suicide after having blogged for a month about the anti-gay bullying he was facing at school.[107] The bullying had begun as early as Grade 7, with students on Jamie's bus attempting to stuff batteries in his mouth because he preferred figure skating over hockey.[108] The incident leads to several Canadian media and political figures posting videos dedicated to Hubley as part of the online It Gets Better Project, as well as an act of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to impose stiffer penalties for bullying in schools which passes in 2012.


  • March 19: Craig Scott wins the federal by-election in Toronto—Danforth, becoming the sixth openly gay MP in the 41st Canadian Parliament.
  • April 14: Allan Hunsperger, a Christian minister from Tofield, Alberta running as a Wildrose candidate in the Alberta provincial election, becomes a focus of controversy when a blog post he wrote in 2011, in his capacity as a church minister, is publicized in the media. The blog post, structured and themed as a rebuttal to Lady Gaga's song "Born This Way", asserts that "accepting people the way they are is cruel and not loving", and that gay people are destined to "suffer the rest of eternity in the lake of fire".[109]
  • April 17: Halifax gay activist Raymond Taavel is beaten to death outside Menz & Mollyz, a gay bar on the city's Gottingen Street, by Andre Denny, a paranoid schizophrenic on an unsupervised leave from a nearby mental hospital, after attempting to break up a fight between Denny and another man.[110] Taavel was a former chair of the city's gay pride festival and a former editor at the LGBT magazine Wayves and worked at the spiritual magazine Shambhala Sun.[110] Over 1,000 people attend a vigil in Taavel's memory later the same evening, which includes performances by poet Tanya Davis, actor and writer Stewart Legere and singer-songwriters Rose Cousins and Ria Mae.[111] Although there were unconfirmed allegations that Denny used anti-gay slurs while attacking Taavel,[112] to date media and the police have not asserted that the case clearly constituted a hate crime, generally attributing the attack to Denny's mental illness rather than to a specifically anti-gay bias.[112] Ironically, Taavel had previously survived a more clearly anti-gay physical attack, which he wrote about in Wayves in May 2010.[113]
  • April 18: For the second year in a row, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford declines an invitation to attend the city's annual Pride Parade, on the grounds that it conflicts with his family's traditional cottage weekend.[114] Unlike in 2011, however, he subsequently attends a PFLAG event on May 17 to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.[115]
  • April 20: Due to a channel switching error at Shaw Cable facilities in Hamilton, the morning newscast on CHCH-TV is replaced for three minutes by a clip of a gay porn movie.[116]
  • May 19: Following a legal battle to reverse her disqualification for not being a "naturally born female", Vancouver resident Jenna Talackova successfully becomes the first transgender woman to compete in a Miss Universe pageant.[117] She does not make the Top 5, but is one of four contestants awarded the title of "Miss Congeniality".[117]
  • November: Twenty LGBT officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police release an online video as part of the international It Gets Better Project.[118]


  • February 11 - Kathleen Wynne is sworn as Premier of Ontario, becoming both Ontario's first female premier and Canada's first openly LGBT first minister.[119]
  • March 12 - Pink Triangle Press announces the discontinuation of long-running Toronto LGBT magazine fab.[120]
  • March 20 - The House of Commons passes Bill C-279, a private member's bill sponsored by Randall Garrison, which officially extends human rights protections to transgender and transsexual people in Canada.[121] The bill passes with virtually unanimous support on the opposition benches, as well as 18 members of the governing Conservative Party caucus, although the majority of Conservatives are opposed.[121]
  • April 2 - The gay owners of a restaurant in Morris, Manitoba announce that they are closing the establishment, just three months after opening it, due to homophobic persecution by some residents of the town.[122] The situation draws widespread criticism across Canada, including comments of support for the owners from Morris mayor Gavin van der Linde, Manitoba premier Greg Selinger and opposition leader Brian Pallister;[123] Selinger announces that he will have lunch at the restaurant during his upcoming flood preparation tour of the Red River Valley region.[123]
  • April 18 - Proud Politics, a new organization dedicated to creating networking and fundraising opportunities for LGBT people in politics, launches in Toronto.[124]
  • June 6 - The Toronto Police Service announces that they are investigating the possibility that three unsolved missing persons cases involving men who were last seen in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, the city's primary gay village, may be linked.[125]
  • June 7 - Edmonton Pride begins with a raising of the rainbow flag on the grounds of CFB Edmonton, the first time in Canadian history that the flag has flown on a military base.[126]
  • June 24 - For the first time in his mayoralty, Rob Ford attends the annual kickoff of Toronto's Pride Week to read the official city proclamation.[127] Kathleen Wynne also announces that she will march in the parade, becoming the first incumbent Premier of Ontario ever to do so.[128]
  • June 19 - Media begin to publicize a series of threatening letters received by a lesbian couple in Kingston, Ontario, from an anonymous "small but dedicated group of Kingston residents devoted to removing the scourge of homosexuality in our city".[129]
  • August 7 - REAL Women of Canada issues a statement criticizing Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird for speaking out on LGBT human rights issues in both Uganda and Russia as part of Canada's foreign policy.[130]
  • October 12 - Scott Jones, a gay resident of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, is stabbed by a knife-wielding man after leaving the Acro Lounge.[131] He is left paraplegic by the attack.[131]
  • October 21 - Priape, an LGBT-oriented clothing retailer with stores in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, closes all four of its locations following bankruptcy proceedings filed earlier in the year.[132] Following Quebec Superior Court approval of a purchase offer on October 30, the new owners announce that they will reopen the flagship store in Montreal, but that the other locations will remain closed.[133]




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