June 8, 2023
June is recognized as Pride month in Canada and marks the start of Pride season. To learn more about the history of Pride, here are a couple of great resources:
Stonewall Forever – A Documentary about the Past, Present and Future of Pride https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjRv7dJTync
Some info on the Canadian context :
The closest equivalent of a “Stonewall” (the 1969 New York City riots widely adopted as a starting point for what was then termed the “gay liberation movement”) in Canada is very arguably the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids, in which police violently descended on four of the city’s bathhouses and arrested 304 men. It’s still one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history (the police called it “Operation Soap”). Gay activist and politician George Hislop (more on him later) was quoted in the The Body Politic (more on that later too) as calling the night “the gay equivalent of Crystal Night in Nazi Germany — when the Jews found out where they were really at.” This resulted in unprecedented community mobilization — and an iconic moment in Canadian LGBTQ history — when, the next night, some 3,000 people marched toward Toronto’s 52 Division police station chanting “F**k you, 52!” The entire story of those raids has already been documented in the 1982 documentary Track Two.
And tragically, while this specific raid gets the most attention due to sheer number of people both who were arrested and who protested, it is hardly an isolated incident. 60 men were arrested at Pisces Spa in Edmonton in 1981, a huge tipping point for the activation of that city’s activist movement. Montreal police arrested 146 men in the 1977 Truxx raids (there’s a documentary on this too, which also shows how the men were thrown in overcrowded cells and forced to take tests for venereal disease) and then another 163 in the 1984 Buds raids. And while it wasn’t a bathhouse, the 1990 raid of the Montreal after-hours queer party Sex Garage was as much an equal to a “Stonewall equivalent” as the 1981 Toronto raids.
Source: Peter Knegt, CBC Arts, posted June 20, 2018