History of Pride in Toronto

Toronto is known as one of the most LGBTQ friendly cities out there, but this wasn’t always the case. There were a lot of people who contributed to the fight for equality throughout the decades and who we have to thank for the progress that has been made since then. People like John Herbert, an Eaton’s employee was arrested in Toronto in 1947 for being dressed as a woman in public and was sentenced to four months in a youth detention center.

During the 1950s into the 1960s, the RCMP would keep tabs on homosexuals and employees of gay bars in different cities across the country. The force also worked with the FBI to surveillance homosexuals and would alert them when a suspected homosexual would cross the border into the United States. They even went as far as to create their own unit that was dedicated to rooting out and removing all homosexuals from government and law enforcement.

It wasn’t until 1969 that the city saw the first sign of acceptance with the decriminalization of homosexuality. Magazines would stop publishing underground the first gay liberation newsmagazine, The Body Politic began publishing. The decriminalization did prevent a lot of LGBT member s from being criminally charged for their actions but it didn’t solve everything. A lot of immigrants were still rejected based on the fact they were gay.

In 1981, police raided a number of Toronto bathhouses which were seen as a sanctuary for gay men. They arrested hundreds of people, many of whom were not out to their friends and family. More raids took place the following month and it was not until 2016 that Toronto police chief Mark Saunders publicly apologized to the LGBT community for the raids.

Following the police raids, three thousand protestors that came out to rally against police violence towards the LGBT community, smashing care windows, lighting fired, and clashing with police. This soon evolved into an annual event and has turned into the pride parade we take part in today. Pride Week in Toronto is the largest event of its kind in Canada with over 90 floats and crowds that gather in the hundreds of thousands.

Ontario was the first province to legalize gay marriage on June 10th 2003 followed by the entire country by 2005. Canada became the fourth country to allow same sex couples to marry and the first outside of Europe.