Toronto Pride 2014: A Look Back At Pride Before WorldPride

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Toronto and pride have a long relationship, and while today it’s largely one of excitement and inclusion, that wasn't always the case.

The first unofficial Pride Week in Toronto took place in 1972 and was organized by the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT), according to On the Bookshelves, a website detailing Toronto's gay history run by Peter Zorzi. It was formed in in December 1970, as an umbrella organization that provided social services, education, political activism, and eventually became the organizers of Pride Week.

Internationally, the gay pride movement gained momentum during the 1960s, after the Stonewall Inn riot in New York City, when years of suppression reached a boiling point. Gay and lesbian individuals who had been subjected to laws that criminalized sodomy and were frequently harassed took to the streets to protest.

Although CHAT sought official recognition from the City of Toronto for their Pride Week, it was not forthcoming. While in 1973 mayor David Crombie extended well wishes to the event, permission to march down Yonge Street was denied. Tensions grew in 1981, when Toronto police arrested 306 people at bathhouses in what was called “Operation Soap,” reports Xtra.

Seen as an effort to push gay bars and bathhouses out of business, "Operation Soap" incited a mass protest, eventually leading to the official establishment of Pride Week in Toronto. The event wasn’t recognized by the municipal government, however, until 1998 with mayor Mel Lastman. Since Barbara Hall in 1995, every Toronto mayor has attended the celebrations (though that's come to a halt with current mayor Rob Ford).

Gaining equal rights for the LGBTQ community also took years nationally. One of the most significant strides gay rights made in Canada was Pierre Trudeau’s amendment to the Criminal Code that decriminalized homosexuality in Canada, reported the CBC. Since then, although discrimination still occurs, gay rights are increasingly upheld by the government, courts and individuals. A huge step forward occurred in 2005, when same-sex marriage was legalized by Paul Martin’s Liberal government.

Today, nearly 42 years after the first Pride events, Toronto is host to WorldPride from June 20 to 29, with hundreds of events such as art shows, religious congregations, picnics and many, many parties.

And though it was on a smaller scale, the program for the 1974 Pride Parade was not dissimilar, as it kicked off with the gay pride dance, followed by other events such as gay film night, culture night, a picnic and a march across Carlton St.

Check out these pictures from the 1974 Pride Parade, and marvel at what a difference 40 years makes.

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