Pride festivities have unfolded in cities across Canada over the past month, and will continue throughout the year -- in Toronto, Pride Week is in full force, with an expected attendance of hundreds of thousands of people (the exact number is always hotly debated).
As one of the countries in the world frequently cited for its positive legislation and support of the LGBT community, Canada has come leaps and bounds since its fight to legalize gay marriage in 2005, even emphasizing its commitment to that law quite publicly earlier this year. A 2009 Angus Reid survey found a majority of Canadians believed relations between people of the same sex were 'morally acceptable,' and 'gay-straight alliances' are spreading at schools across the country.
Our country is filled with activists who have taken risks, and put their every effort into ensuring that no Canadian should feel embarrassed, attacked or like less of a person for who they are -- we took a look at some of our favourite gay Canadians here. In honour of this year's Toronto Pride Parade -- the largest in North America -- The Huffington Post Canada took a look at Canadians who are straight by sexual orientation, but no less committed to ensuring LGBT citizens are given the same rights as anyone else.
We know this list isn't inclusive, so if you know other great Canadians working hard for LGBT rights, let us know in the comments below:
Hockey coach Brian Burke is well-versed in the language of sport -- and how that language can be particularly unfriendly toward gay men. His son, Brendan, was both a hockey player and gay, and was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010. Earlier this year, Burke launched <a href="http://youcanplayproject.org/" target="_hplink">You Can Play</a> with son Patrick, a hockey scout, to combat homophobia in sports.
Besides portraying a lesbian on "Sex and the City" (at least for an episode or three), the Canadian citizen received an award from GLAAD last year for <a href="http://www.advocate.com/news/daily-news/2011/05/15/kim-cattrall-honored-glaad" target="_hplink">her work to increase the understanding and visibility for the LGBT community</a>.
The Canadian Auto Workers <a href="http://www.caw.ca/en/services-departments-pride-caw-lgbt-history.htm" target="_hplink">showed support for gay rights as early as 1985</a>, and its former National President, Buzz Hargrove, was <a href="http://www.caw.ca/en/4367.htm" target="_hplink">particularly vocal about his (and the union's) support for gay marriage</a>. The union was also the first to sponsor an official float in the Pride Parade, in 2001.
This year, Alberta Premier Alison Redford became<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/06/09/alison-redford-gay-pride_n_1583769.html" target="_hplink"> the first premier of the province to ever attend the Pride festival</a> (shown here on Saturday, June 9, 2012). "Personally, it's a privilege to be able to be here to celebrate community, diversity, families, tolerance and an Alberta for 2012 where all of us feel safe, secure and confident about expressing who we are," she said.
Former Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams took a stand on gay marriage during the legalization debate in 2005, <a href="http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/newfoundland-premier-speaks-out-in-favour-of-gay-marriage" target="_hplink">declaring it a "human right."</a>
The actor best known as Will of "Will & Grace" (who originally hails from Toronto) was part of the series that brought the 'gay lifestyle' to mainstream television (after "Ellen" paved the way). Though the show was <a href="http://www.popmatters.com/tv/reviews/w/will-and-grace.html" target="_hplink">criticized for confining the view of the LGBT community</a> to white, privileged men, academic research has found <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/business/media/gay-on-tv-its-all-in-the-family.html" target="_hplink">gay characters on television decreases prejudices</a> among those who watch the show. And hey, <a href="http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2012/05/07/joe-biden-says-will-and-grace-helped-change-public-opinion-on-gay-rights/?mod=google_news_blog" target="_hplink">Joe Biden agrees!</a>
Rev. Eldon Hay
A United Church minister and professor emeritus at Mount Allison University, Hay was the first president of PFLAG Canada, having gotten involved after his son came out to him in 1986. He's a well-known gay rights figure across Atlantic Canada, and the nation.
Known for shooting off his mouth, this hockey tough guy (originally from Toronto) <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGGH3M9NKBI&feature=player_embedded" target="_hplink">was the first professional athlete to record a message for New Yorkers 4 Marriage Equality</a>.
Ed Clark, the president and Chief Executive Officer of TD Bank Group, has made LGBT a mainstay of TD's hiring policy, and was given a perfect score in the 2010 Corporate Equality Index (a report card for employers' treatment of LGBT employees). Most recently, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_agBfy70SU" target="_hplink">the president recorded a message in the bank's version of "It Gets Better,"</a>. And he doesn't pretend it's not good business -- as he told his executive team, <a href="http://www.iveybusinessjournal.com/topics/the-organization/diversity-and-the-gay-and-lesbian-community-more-than-chasing-the-pink-dollar" target="_hplink">to be successful over the long term</a>, TD must be a place where all customers and employees believe that their needs can be met.
In 2005, Toronto police chief Bill Blair became the city's first to march in the Pride Parade -- and <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/pride/article/831832--pride-parade-a-joy-despite-controversies" target="_hplink">despite controversy</a>, continues to support LGBT communities within the police community and beyond, including <a href="https://twitter.com/PrideToronto/status/218099875479425026" target="_hplink">speaking at a Pride event this year</a>.
The Calgary mayor already enjoyed a fair amount of popularity, and it only increased when he agreed to be <a href="http://www.calgarysun.com/2011/07/04/nenshi-to-lead-gay-pride-parade" target="_hplink">the grand marshal of the city's Pride parade last September</a>. "I marched in it last year because I really believe that as mayor, you're the mayor of all Calgarians," he said.<br><i>William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are presented white cowboy hats by Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, right, and Alberta Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Ethell upon on their arrival to Calgary, Alberta Thursday, July 7, 2011.
The NDP Member of Parliament and partner of the late Jack Layton (both shown here at Toronto's Pride 2010 is a long-time advocate for LGBT rights, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhGnILNM4so" target="_hplink">speaking in Parliament to support equal marriage</a> and <a href="http://www.oliviachow.ca/2012/02/end-discrimination-against-transgender-travellers/" target="_hplink">fighting discrimination against transgendered passports</a>.
The Calgary-born "Glee" actor became <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=vL7hLzDDbak#!" target="_hplink">part of the Straight But Not Narrow campaign last year</a>, an initiative meant to promote acceptance of gay men by straight people. As he states in the recording, "Just be yourself." He's also <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mE3uTSdo4OA" target="_hplink">spoken out against bullying</a> in an initiative from GLAAD and The Weinstein Company.