Tag Archives: Joe Clark

Pride and Pre-justice (a recap)

Proclaiming your gay pride in Calgary used to be hard. In previous years, homophobia and transphobia were actively practiced in our city. We had both an unsympathetic society and an unjust state. Here is the speediest of recaps.

1980 – Calgary gay activists host a national gay rights conference that ends in a controversial rally and march. Then Mayor Ross Alger and police Chief, Brian Sawyer are decidedly unsupportive.

1981 – Newly elected Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein proclaims he is a mayor for everyone including the gay community, then quickly distances himself from gays due to public outcry.

1987 –  Delegates from many of Calgary’s gay and lesbian organizations come together to form an umbrella organization called Project Pride Calgary. Inspired by the Stonewall Riots, they produce a Pride festival locally to celebrate community. Their first festival in 1988 includes a concert, workshops, a dance, and a family picnic – but no public rally or protest.

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1990 Pride Rally Poster

1990 – the Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG), one of the Project Pride partners, organizes the first political rally, which they internally described as a media stunt. 140 people muster at the Old Y to pick up lone ranger masks, and then gather at the Boer War Statue in Central Memorial Park.

1991 – CLAGPAG more ambitiously, holds its first Pride Parade. 400 people at City Hall cheer gay Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, who gives an inspiring speech despite gloomy weather and even gloomier protesters, three of whom were arrested. 1991 is also the year Mayor Al Duerr famously proclaims gay pride week in Calgary but then denies future proclamations due to public pressure.

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Svend Robinson, June 16, 1991.  Photo: Luke Shwart

1998 – Vriend vs. Alberta. The Supreme Court decision forces Alberta to include sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for human rights discrimination. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein blusters, and stirs up his socially conservative base, but in the end capitulates.

2001 – Former Conservative Prime Minister, Joe Clark, agrees to be Calgary’s Pride Parade Marshall and solicits scorn from social conservatives everywhere, including the Westboro Baptist Church. “We might have a big crowd preaching against those fags up there Sunday,” Reverend Fred Phelps says from Topeka, Kansas but then fails to show up.

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Joe Clark, June 10, 2001.  Photo: Grant Neufeld

2002- Calgary Police raid Goliath’s Sauna, and charge operators and found-ins under antiquated bawdy house laws, provoking legal challenges from the gay community. (The Crown eventually drops charges in 2005 citing changing community standards)

2005 – Same-sex marriage becomes legal in Canada. The Alberta Government remains officially opposed and threatens to invoke the notwithstanding clause to negate the law in Alberta, but doesn’t.

2006 – Parade marchers tussle with protestors carrying signs “no pride in sodomy.” One marcher is arrested.  Police Chief Jack Beaton says publicly he disapproves of the protestors.

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2009 Pride Board Members, Dallas Barnes & Sam Casselman.  Photo: Kevin Allen

2009 – Pride Calgary moves the parade from June to the September long weekend, and transitions from a grassroots collective to an incorporated non-profit society.

2011 – Mayor Naheed Nenshi is the first Calgary mayor to march in our Pride Parade, and is parade marshall that year, making national headlines.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi, September 4, 2011 Photo: Todd Korol, The Globe and Mail

2016 – Protestors are hard to find and politicians are seemingly everywhere – it has been an amazing journey.


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We are in Saskatoon next week!

Our planned trip last August to Saskatchewan had to be postponed, but we are finally travelling to Saskatoon April 13-16 to do research in the Neil Richards Collection of Sexual and Gender Diversity located at the University of Saskatchewan.

Not only will be looking for Calgary citations in the collection, but we will also be meeting with Mr. Richards to discuss best practices for setting up our Calgary gay history archive.

Prairie cities in Canada had a lot in common when it came to the gay liberation movement in the 1970s. Activists in Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg met as often as they could, to share information and bolster each other efforts at a time when there were not a lot of people doing this important work.

Calgary’s Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC) hosted the 1979 Prairie Gay Rights Conference, May 19th to 21st  {The Saskatchewan Gay Coalition hosted the 1978 conference in Saskatoon}. This annual conference over the Victoria Day weekend was preoccupied in 1979 with the imminent Federal Election, and Progressive Conservative (PC) leader and Albertan, Joe Clark’s stand on gay rights. Stan Schumacher, an independent candidate running in Calgary – Bow River alleged Joe Clark was soft on homosexuality. Post-election, a PC spokesperson explained to activists that the (now) Prime Minister’s position was not necessarily opposed to the inclusion of sexual orientation in federal human rights legislation. However wanting to get elected, that position was not made public!

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Registration Information for 1979 Prairie Conference

Gay groups across the country during the 1979 election campaign agitated for a gay rights charter distributed by the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition but got little traction. However, a 27-year old Svend Robinson was elected that year in Burnaby; he would become the first openly gay Member of Parliament when he publicly revealed his sexual orientation in 1988.

Any former Calgarians or visitors to Calgary, who are now living in the Saskatoon area, and who have stories about our LGBTQ history are invited to contact Kevin – we are keen on interviewing you!