Tag Archives: Svend Robinson

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!


Calgary’s First Pride Parade – 1991?

Thanks everyone who came out to the Gay History Walk last night – what a crowd and great evening!  On the walk I heard that Pride Calgary organizers are expecting 35,000 – 40,000 people out for the parade on Sunday.  Amazing.  So I dug into the vaults and asked colleagues a few questions to determine when was the first Calgary pride parade.   I will call it as being 1991, but the demarcation line is a bit fuzzy… Read on.

As I mentioned in a previous post there had been a Calgary march and rally back in 1980.  However a Pride Parade in the classic sense, with its homage to Stonewall (being in June), occurred on June 16, 1991, which also happened to be Father’s Day.  The city was in a polarized uproar because Mayor Al Duerr, had gone out on a political limb and signed a proclamation declaring June 16-23, 1991 as the first “Gay Rights Week.”

The Mayor’s office fielded hundreds of angry calls condemning the decision.  Some Aldermen objected strenuously as well.  Alderman John Schmal said, the problem with Duerr’s proclamation was made on behalf of the citizens of Calgary and city council, adding “I don’t support any of that stuff; why don’t we just declare a heterosexual week?”  Alderman Ray Clark concurred: “If you want to put our names on this proclamation you’d better ask our permission.”  Aldermen Ray Clark and Carol Kraychy took particular offense at the choice of Father’s Day to commence the week.

1991 Pride Parade

About 400 people marched down Stephen Avenue ending up at City Hall to listen to a speech by B.C. New Democrat MP Svend Robinson.  He told the gathered assembly that the greatest barrier facing gays is their invisibility and silence.  “We are here to remind political leaders it is wrong in Alberta that it’s still legal to fire us from jobs, throw us from homes, and deny us goods and services because of who we love,” he exclaimed.

Nancy Miller, one of the rally organizers remembers, “It had been overcast that day and when Svend got up to the mic to speak the clouds parted and a beam of light hit him as he spoke – it was amazing.”

It was not all transcendental however, as two dozen protesters – one with a pit bull – behaved badly, eventually leading to three protester arrests.  Christian churches from an assortment of denominations had their own rally as well, drawing 1000 people “to pray for the city,” organizer Bob Gal explained.  He added that holding their event on Father’s day was appropriate as Christians had gathered to honour their Father.

Mayor Duerr, facing continued political pressure in the weeks after Pride, eventually renounced his decision, publicly admitted to making a mistake with the proclamation vowing it would never happen again.  In 1992, the Gay and Lesbian community proclaimed, “Gay and Lesbian Pride Week” themselves, taking ads out in public newspapers without any mayoral or civic endorsement.  And in 1993, Edmonton’s mayor Jan Reimer, proclaimed her city’s first Gay and Lesbian Pride Day, irritating Duerr’s (and Calgary’s) anti-proclamation stance.

Additional notes:  Calgary’s first “Pride Week” started as a weekend of workshops in 1988.  In 1990, Calgary’s 3rd Annual “Pride Festival” had a political rally that drew 400 at Memorial Park.  Consequently the first parade in 1991, was actually part of the 4th Annual Pride Festival.