Celebrating Pride Month
by Jonathan F. Griffith, Early Intervention Counsel, Law Society of Alberta, and President, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community section (SOGIC), Canadian Bar Association
Although Pride is celebrated at different times across our country (even within Alberta), June is officially Pride Month in Canada. Pride is a time to celebrate the rich and wonderful diversity across the spectrum of communities in our country. It is also a time to remember the historic and ongoing fight for equality. It hasn’t been easy.
Many credit the 1969 Stonewall Riots as the origin of the pride movement. Led largely by transgender people of colour and drag queens, the riots erupted as the community’s response to frequent police raids on gay bars in New York City. LGBTQA2S+ individuals existed and resisted long before the Stonewall Riots, but the riots were a large and public example of the community’s pushback against state-sponsored oppression and are a useful starting place for the measurement of the modern gay rights movement in the west. Since then, LGBTQA2S+ communities in Canada have marked a host of major landmark victories.
Heralding the decriminalization of homosexuality with the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 (SC 1968-69, c 38), then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau proclaimed, “There is no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Despite the importance of that step towards equality, LGBTQA2S+ rights had a long way to go from there. For example, the lack of political and public support for LGBTQA2S+ communities aggravated the ravages of the AIDS pandemic in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Police raids on LGBTQA2S+ communities were still commonplace in many cities across Canada throughout the 80s. The right for same-sex couples to marry wasn’t won in Canada until 2005 (with the passage of the Civil Marriage Act SC 2005, c 33). Pride movements gained momentum across Canada in response to these and other ongoing inequities facing the LGBTQA2S+ communities.
Pride is an international phenomenon but it’s also a grassroots movement. Every Alberta community has its own unique pride history. For example, Edmonton’s first Pride celebration was held in 1980. Project Pride Calgary (PPC) was formed in 1987 and produced the first Gay and Lesbian Pride Festival in Calgary in June 1988. Founded in 2012, the Central Alberta Pride Society brings awareness and community to Red Deer, which had its first drive-by pride parade on August 1, 2020.
Today the fight for LGBTQA2S+ rights continues locally, nationally and internationally. More recent examples of LGBTQA2S+ advocacy initiatives include:
- The ongoing conversation about the role and place for Gay-Straight Alliances in Alberta’s schools;
- The ban on conversion therapy (with the passage of the Act to Amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy) SC 2021, c 24); and
- The Canadian Blood Services’ proposal to lift the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.
In addition to participating in pride celebrations, members of the legal community can get involved by joining the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community section (SOGIC) of the Canadian Bar Association. Additionally, lawyers can attend the inaugural PRISME conference, Canada’s newest annual LGBTQA2S+ conference (coming up on June 18 and 19, 2022).
Pride provides us with an opportunity to celebrate our diversity and our achievements. It also provides us with an opportunity to regroup and focus on the ongoing push towards equality. The fight for rights across Canada’s many LGBTQA2S+ communities is far from over.