Banner image presenting the LGBTQ community in Canada

Celebrating Pride All Year Long

A sea of rainbows and colourful floats reigns the streets. The parades begin their march. Love, fun and glitter are in the air. These are just a few of the many wonderful things associated with Pride. But why limit Pride to just one month or even one season?

While Pride is a celebration of love and a commemoration of the LGBTQIA2S+ communities, it’s a reminder that the fight for social justice, equal rights, inclusion and belonging has no end date. After all, discrimination against the LGBTQIA2S+ communities isn’t a moment in time, but an ongoing, centuries-old campaign.

At Raymond James, we know that representation matters, and we’ll continue to support the rights of all marginalized communities. This year, our National Inclusion Council is launching “Celebrating Pride around the World” series of articles. Over the course of several weeks, we’ll celebrate and honour the LGBTQIA2S+ communities and their pursuit of equal justice under the law and equal rights.

The series of articles will highlight the journey to Pride in several countries. From Canada to Japan, we’ll celebrate the impact the LGBTQIA2S+ communities have made—all while reminding ourselves that we can do better in Canada and beyond. Our main goal is to not only empower LGBTQIA2S+ communities who persevered in the face of threats and violence, but we will also give voice to those still unable to reclaim their rights and freedoms.

Today, we feature Canada and the trailblazers who lived, struggled and fought so hard for equal rights. As always, we look back on all they’ve accomplished with pride and love.

Canada’s Journey to Pride

Did you know that in 2005, Bill C-38 became federal law, making Canada the fourth country in the world to allow samesex marriage? But the path to reach that milestone was fraught with hurdles and required the utmost determination.

In fact, Canada’s gay rights landscape is full of turning points that eventually led to the celebration of LGBTQIA2S+ communities today.

Before same-sex marriage became legal in Canada, before our first gay rights rally and before homosexuality was decriminalized in this country, there was Jim Egan. A pioneering gay activist, Toronto’s Jim Egan publicly challenged a culture scarred by homophobia in the late 1940s.

About 40 years later, Jim Egan sued the Canadian government for the right to claim spousal benefits for his partner Jack Nesbit. Their case prompted the Supreme Court to agree that sexual orientation is a protected ground under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—a landmark decision that paved the way for other milestone wins.

One tipping point in Canada’s LGBTQIA2S+ rights movement is the events of January 5, 1974, which ushered in significant change and marked the start of a new, more assertive era in the country’s LGBTQIA2S+ history. Four queer women Adrienne Potts, Pat Murphy, Sue Wells and Heather Elizabeth—dubbed “The Brunswick Four”—went to an amateur singing contest at Toronto’s Brunswick Tavern.

They were ordered to leave after singing a lesbian-themed song, but they refused and ended up being assaulted and arrested by the police. The incident outraged the lesbian and gay community and led to the resolve to fight against discrimination and police harassment.

Here’s a look at some of the other significant milestones that shaped Canada’s rich LGBTQIA2S+ history.


1967 Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau proposes amendments to the Criminal Code which, among other things, would relax the laws against homosexuality. 1969 Trudeau's amendments pass into the Criminal Code, decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada. 1977 Quebec includes sexual orientation in its Human Rights Code, making it the first province in Canada to pass a gay civil rights law. The law makes it illegal to discriminate against gays in housing, public accommodation and employment.  1978 Canada gets a new Immigration Act. Under the act, homosexuals are removed from the list of inadmissible classes. 1979 The Canadian Human Rights Commission recommends in its annual report that sexual orientation be added to the Canadian Human Rights Act. 1980 Bill C-242, an act to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gets its first reading in the House of Commons by MP Pat Carney. The bill, which would have inserted "sexual orientation" into the Canadian Human Rights Act, doesn't pass. 1981 Police arrest more than 300 men at four gay bath houses in Toronto, the largest mass arrest since the War Measures Act was invoked during the October Crisis. The following night, about 3,000 people march in downtown Toronto to protest the arrests. This is often referred to as Operation Soap and is considered Canada's Stonewall. 1985 The Parliamentary Committee on Equality Rights releases a report titled Equality for All, recommending that the Canadian Human Rights Act be changed to make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. 1988 Svend Robinson goes public about being gay, becoming the first Member of Parliament to do so. 1992 The federal court lifts the country's ban on homosexuals in the military, allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces. 1996 The federal government passes Bill C-33 which adds "sexual orientation" to the Canadian Human Rights Act. 1999 The Supreme Court of Canada rules same-sex couples should have the same benefits and obligations as opposite-sex common-law couples and equal access to benefits from social programs to which they contribute. 2000 Parliament passes Bill C-23, which gives same-sex couples the same social and tax benefits as heterosexuals in common-law relationships. 2004 The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the federal government can change the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples but does not answer whether such a change is required by the Charter.  2005 The federal government introduces its same-sex marriage bill in the House of Commons. Bill C-38, the law giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry, receives royal assent and becomes law.


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Don’t put away your rainbow flag or Pride t-shirt just yet. Stay tuned for our next article where we feature Iceland and discuss how far LGBTQ+ rights have come in that island nation.