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Gay Pride Day in Toronto, 1985

It was a time of protests, legal fights and backlash. With a growing sense of solidarity, gays and lesbians became more visible in Canadian society in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s. Homosexuality gradually became more accepted as more Canadians came out of the closet to demand equality under the law.

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It seems there is something to fight for in every corner on Pride Day in 1985.  First, Toronto mayor Art Eggleton refuses to proclaim Lesbian & Gay Pride Week.  Second, AIDS is a terrifying new dilemma, and gay communities everywhere are being blamed.  And gays and lesbians are still facing an uphill battle for social acceptance and an end to discrimination.  In this CBC-TV clip, gay activist and future Toronto city councilor Kyle Rae is at the forefront of the struggle. "We need to see the Ontario Human Rights Code changed to allow lesbians and gay men parental rights, to allow them to have free access to housing without discrimination, and of course jobs," he asserts amid the colours and festivities of the Pride Day March.
• The 1985 Pride Day festivities were held on June 30 under the theme "Coming Together."  According to PrideToronto.com, 8,000 people were in attendance at the celebrations in Cawthra Park.
• Organizers of the 1985 event planned a public education campaign about AIDS, hoping to clear up misunderstandings that the disease is one that affects only the gay community.  "There's a lot of straight people that have misconceptions about AIDS and ... how can they contract it by even knowing gay people, which is totally untrue," one woman states in the clip.
• In 1986, Mayor Eggleton once again refused to proclaim Lesbian & Gay Week, but 10,000 people still celebrated in Cawthra Park.  The first [Toronto] Pride Committee was formed to organize the event.  The logo focused on AIDS and depicted an "electrocardiogram recording the last heartbeats of people dying of AIDS."  Despite all the hysteria surrounding the AIDS scare, the event had corporate sponsorship for the first time.
• In 1987, 15,000 attended the event in a year where sexual orientation was included in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

• In 1988, Pride Day got its first parade grand marshals: Karen Andrews and Svend Robinson.  A temporary AIDS Memorial was installed in Cawthra Park.  Despite the mayor's continued refusal for proclamation, 20,000 attended the celebrations.
• In 1996 the first Dyke March was held on the Saturday of the two-day event. The turnout was 8,000.
• In 1998, the first Pride Week was proclaimed by new "mega-city" mayor Mel Lastman.  Lastman got in on the festivities by riding a fire truck in the parade and getting soaked by revelers with water guns.
• By the new millennium, the weeklong event was attracting over a million people and had become a major summer boon for the city's economy.

Medium: Television
Program: Newshour
Broadcast Date: June 30, 1985
Guest(s): Kyle Rae
Reporter: Marina Mirabella
Duration: 1:32

Last updated: June 30, 2014

Page consulted on June 30, 2014

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