By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist
June is a month of celebrations. From National Indigenous Heritage Month, to Pride Month and Fiesta here in Oshawa, it is month of celebrating people and cultures of our community. Each of these celebrations look to highlight the amazing diversity within our community.
Pride Month’s history is connected to the gay rights protests held across Canada in the 1970s. The first protest march was held on August 28, 1971 in Ottawa on Parliament Hill. The march concluded with the protesters presenting a petition to the government outlining a list of ten equal rights and protections they wanted the government to enact. These protests came after years of the LGBTQ2S+ community striving to gain equal rights. Canada has a long history with criminalizing homosexuality, and the fight for equal rights was not easy. Over the year, laws against homosexuality actually became more harsh and worked to criminalize anyone gay who was not celibate. Bill C-150 was passed in May 1969 which decriminalized gay sex in Canada. This bill was only a first step towards the equal rights and the protection of those rights.
In August 1973, the first national Pride Week celebrations happened with events being held in several Canadian cities, including Toronto, Saskatoon and Winnipeg. The first “official” Pride Marches were held in 1979 in both Toronto and Vancouver.
Here in Durham Region, the first official Pride event was held in Whitby in 2004 by the Durham Pride Association. The event was held just two years after Marc Hall, a student at Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School in Oshawa, made headlines across the country by taking the Durham Catholic School Board to court over discrimination.
Hall took the DCSB to court after he was prevented from purchasing a ticket for himself and his boyfriend to attend the prom together on the grounds that homosexuality was incompatible with Catholic teaching. The lawsuit thrust Hall to the forefront of the fight for gay equality as the story became international news. In an interview with Global News a decade after his lawsuit, Hall noted that he wasn’t someone who wanted to be the centre of attention, and that he found the media swarm to be scary. The Justice involved in the court proceedings issued an injunction ordering the school to allow Hall to attend prom with his boyfriend given that the suit would likely take years. Hall attended prom with Jean-Paul Drummond. In 2005, Hall dropped the case against the DCSB knowing that it would likely drag on for years. This experience helped Hall to become an advocate for gay equality. A documentary was produced examining his fight against the DCSB, and there was even a TV movie produced. Hall’s lawsuit helped shine a light on the ongoing fight for equal rights that members of the LGBTQ2S+ community faced and continue to face.
The first Pride event held by Durham Pride Association saw 150 people attend. Since then the organization has grown and became a non-profit in 2008. The organization works to support the LGBTQ2S+ community by hosting events in all the towns and cities in Durham Region. Like so many other events, this year’s Pride March had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. Organizers are already planning for next year’s event.
Kennedy, John R. “10 Years Later, Marc Hall is much more than ‘the prom guy’” https://globalnews.ca/news/290335/10-years-later-marc-hall-is-much-more-than-the-prom-guy/
Pride Durham. “Our History.” https://www.pridedurham.org/history
Queer Events. “History of Canadian Pride.” https://www.queerevents.ca/canada/pride/history
The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada.” https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-rights-in-canada
The Canadian Encyclopedia. “Pride In Canada.” https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/world-pride-2014-toronto