1970s: Getting Organized

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The GAY LIBERATION MOVEMENT starts making headway

1971 Demonstration on Parliament Hill (Source: Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives)

1971 Demonstration on Parliament Hill (Source: Canadian Lesbian & Gay Archives)

The 1960s ended with the decriminalization of homosexuality; however, this did not mean that LGBT individuals were free from discrimination. They faced discrimination in employment and housing, they were denied the abitlity to serve in the Armed Forces, and  Canada’s immigration policy restricted homosexuals from immigrating to Canada. They faced harassment by police and experienced the brunt of prejudiced views that were prevalent in Canadian society. Their relationships were not recognized. This meant same-sex couples were unable to adopt or enjoy the benefits extended to heterosexual couples (a more detailed list of benefits available only through marriage can be found here).

The first large scale gay demonstration in Canada took place in Ottawa in 1971. The organizers, Toronto Gay Action (TGA), presented a list of 10 demands to the federal government which called for “all legal rights for homosexuals which currently exist for heterosexuals.”  (Source:  “We Demand, 1971,” Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives)

Gay rights activists in in the 1970s were advocating: 

  • liberated sexuality
  • protesting police harassment
  • overcoming judicial homophobia

Debates revolved around:

  • abolition of the age of consent
  • support for pornography and opposition to censorship
  • relationship recognition


As early as the beginning of the 1970s, same-sex couples sought marriage to affirm their committment to their partners. Yet, at this point, there had been insufficient headway of gay rights for any type of legal relationship recognition. While couples participated in wedding ceremonies, they were not legally married because the state would not sanction their unions.

1972Michel Girouard and Réjean Tremblay Photo: Chris Vogel & Rich North
This Quebec couple sought a formal recognition of their relationship. They drew up legal contracts and had a minister of the Metropolitan Community Churches bless their union. The union was not legally recognized as a marriage, thus, no rights or benefits for married couples were extended. 

1974  – Chris Vogel and Richard North
This Manitoba couple were married by a Unitarian Church after the publication of banns. The province of Manitoba would not register the marriage despite repeated appeals.

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