Tag Archives: Stephen Lock

Infighting in 1980

Gay Information and Resources Calgary (GIRC) hosted the 8th Annual National Conference of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition (CLGRC). Typically all of the cities who had hosted the conference in years prior also had coordinated a parade. However, factions in Calgary’s gay community were opposed to having a gay rights march here. The most prominent voices against were gay club owner Vance Campbell and Reverend Lloyd Greenway of MCC Calgary.

At a feisty public forum, sponsored by GIRC on April 7th, the parade’s opposition was strongly manifest, forcing GIRC to reluctantly cancel the planned march and propose a rally instead. The critique against the march centred around fears of property damage as well as religious, homophobic backlash.

Vance Campbell, who owned the Parkside Continental and who also was a part owner of Myrts and the Backlot, sent a letter to Mayor Ross Alger regarding the parade, stating: “The remarks attributed to GIRC are not fully representative of the gay community, but of a small group of persons interested in creating a problem where previously there had not been one.” He copied his missive to Calgary’s Chief of Police, Brian Sawyer.

Rev. Lloyd Greenway said, “We’ve had it good here for so long. There are other ways to get rights than be going out and marching. Calgary does not need a bunch of eastern radicals – and believe me I’m from the east and I know what they’re like – marching through downtown.”

The Imperial Court of the Chinook Arch was on the record saying: “the minute you start flaunting yourself, you’ve got a problem. [The march] is an embarrassment to the entire community.”

There was also a petition, whose source was unknown, circulating in local gay clubs, addressed to the Mayor and Chief of Police to thwart any proposed gay rights march.

The divisive debate was widely covered in local press, and saw several gay sources make controversial statements such as suggesting that there was no discrimination in Alberta, and that gays have it good in Calgary. GIRC, and the rest of the activist community in Calgary (as well as across the country), strenuously disagreed. The Body Politic, Canada’s gay liberation journal, wrote an editorial decidedly in support of a march.

By mid-May GIRC’s Board of Directors decided to obtain a parade permit – just in case – should the conference delegates decide to hold a march on their own accord. However, Chief Sawyer refused to sign a parade permit and told GIRC that participants in an unauthorized march would be arrested and charged with creating an unlawful public disturbance.

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GIRC President Bob Harris talking to Police at City Hall Rally, June 28, 1980.  Photo source: Body Politic, Issue 65 August 1980.

In the end, about 40 angry conference delegates massed on City Hall on June 28th, for refusing to issue the parade permit. They silently picketed for about 30 minutes: purposefully silent so as “not to create a public disturbance.” They then sang, “O Canada,” and headed off to their planned gay rights rally on St. Patrick’s Island. Ironically, the assembled group marched over there without any trouble.

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Calgary Activist Stephen Lock at City Hall Protest.  Source: Body Politic, Issue 65, August 1980.

{KA}

 

1989 – Burning Down The House

Arson in the Old Y, is our third and final post in advance of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia coming up next week on May 17th.

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On the evening of April 20th, 1989 a fire was started in the basement office of Lesbian and Gay Youth Calgary (LGYC), one of several gay and lesbian groups housed at the Old Y, 223 12 Ave. SW (now called CommunityWise). Firefighters were called around 8:30 pm to extinguish the blaze which fortunately was contained to the LGYC office. There were no injuries, but about 40 people were evacuated from the three-storey brick building. The LGYC office was heavily damaged by smoke and there was approximately $1000 worth of structural damage to the building.

“Quick extinguishing of the blaze kept damage to a minimum,” said fire department Captain Gord Cantley to local press.

Arson investigators determined the blaze was deliberately set. The fire was started in a garbage can and was made to appear as an accident. None of the contents of the office were disrupted and it occurred about an hour after volunteers had left the LGYC office.

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Modern Pink Cover Illustration: Joey Sayer

Stephen Lock, who worked at Gay Lines upstairs in the Old Y, speculated that LGYC had been targeted. He said: “The fact that the offices are tucked away in the basement in a maze-like area indicates to me somebody searched them out.”

The LGBT community was bracing for an increase in violence that summer due to the very high profile Gordon Summers case in Calgary. The 24-year old, who knowingly was HIV positive, faced three counts of aggravated assault for allegedly having unprotected sex with one man and two women, one his girlfriend. This precedent-setting legal case made Summers a household name that April, and a source of AIDS panic locally. {He later pled guilty to the lesser charge of being a common nuisance and was sentenced to a year in jail.}

The arson investigation seemed dormant for a couple of months but then police started questioning members of LGYC. In June, the group received a letter from the city stating that the investigation may reveal that LGYC was responsible for the damages to the city-owned building, surprising everyone at the Old Y.

That same day as receiving the letter, the Police arrested 19-year old Robert John Girouard at the LGYC office, who was carted away to the surprise and shock of the other LGYC members present. LGYC later released a public statement: “It is the position of Lesbian and Gay Youth Group of Calgary, that the arrest was unjust and that the accused is completely innocent.”

Girouard went to court July 11th and pled not guilty. The court set a preliminary inquiry date for October 18th, but it is unclear that he was ever convicted.

{KA}

 

 

 

Phew. YYCGayHistory Pride Week Recap.

There was lots of gay history this year as Pride Calgary celebrated its 25th Anniversary.  In sharp contrast to our past, politicians from many political stripes were thick at events.  Their speeches respectfully acknowledged the founders of Pride and we hosted a special Origins Panel Discussion, sponsored by the Hyatt Regency downtown.

Origins Panel

Pride Founders (L to R): Nancy Miller, Stephen Lock and Richard Gregory, and Moderator: Kevin Allen. Photo credit: Twitter @MastersMatt

There were three gay history walks, well attended, despite the cool wet weather, and lots of people came to speak to us at the Gay History Booth at the Pride Festival.

Finally, we did a lot of media interviews during Pride Week.  Here are links to a couple of the more significant pieces in case you missed them.

CBC’s Calgary Pride Celebrates 25 Years – with archival footage from the original Pride rally in 1990, by Danielle Nerman.

Calgary Sun’s How the persecution of a popular Calgary bus driver half a century ago prompted Canada’s decriminalization of homosexuality, by Michael Platt.

{KA}