Pride Month 2020
Many communities across Ontario, from Barrie to Sudbury, from Hamilton to Thunder Bay and from Brantford to Toronto, are celebrating Pride during the month of June. Spurred on by the Stonewall riots in New York City and Canada’s decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, activists began organizing the first events celebrating gay culture openly and fighting for equal rights and recognition starting in 1970.
The LGBTQ+ community was still widely viewed with suspicion when in 1981, Toronto police arrested 306 people, dubbed “Operation Soap,” in a series of bathhouse raids in the Church and Wellesley area of Toronto. A group of legal activities founded a legal support group, offering legal counsel to those arrested. To this day, these raids remain as one of the largest mass arrests in Canada. The events of 1981 provided the impetus to make Pride a fixed annual event. However, it took another decade before the occasion started to receive official recognition from the city. Permissions for Pride celebration events continued to be denied in other Ontario cities, including Hamilton and London, well into the 1990s.
Starting in the late 1980s and continuing since then, governments at all three levels have gradually begun to provide legal recognition and equality to members of the LGBTQ+ community. Most notably, following the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1995 decision in Egan v Canada, sexual orientation became prohibited basis of discrimination under Section 15 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ten years later, same-sex marriage was legalized. Most recently, in March 2020, the federal government introduced Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, to ban conversion therapy.
This brief summary demonstrates that the struggle for legal recognition and societal acceptance for members of the LGBTQ+ is as recent as an ongoing endeavour.
The Law Society of Ontario and the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association have partnered for the past two decades to promote Pride activities for the legal profession. We are grateful that the Roundtable of Diversity Association (RODA) have joined these efforts this year. We commend both organizations for the leadership that they have demonstrated in advancing issues and causes relevant to legal professionals who self-identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, not only this month, but over the past many decades. Although we had to cancel our joint public event as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we celebrate the long history for recognition and acceptance, the significant milestones and the enormous contributions of lawyers and paralegals from the LGBTQ+ community and their allies, to the legal community in Ontario, while recognizing that our work is still not done.
Last year’s joint Pride event, titled “Transgender Youth and Inclusion: Sexual Health Education in Ontario” featured a discussion about trans youth and inclusion and the provincial sex-education curriculum changes. For those who wish to view last year’s program, you may do so at the following link: https://lso.freestonelms.com/viewer/daZTRe44gTJnF47tWHrgaVXqESd12fyGHHneZCEk4CuCg
Please note that this program has been accredited for 1 hour and 30 minutes of EDI Professionalism Content.
Best wishes for a meaningful Pride Month!