British Columbia

As Vancouver proclaims Pride Week, gay pioneer recalls city's first Pride Parade

LGBTQ activist David Myers recalls Vancouver's very first Pride Parade.

'I’m astounded we’ve come so far'

The Vancouver Pride Parade is on Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The City of Vancouver proclaimed the start of Pride Week Monday morning, but one LGBTQ activist says it hasn't always been easy to march in support of gay rights in Vancouver. 

David Myers was a co-host of Vancouver's first gay radio show "Coming Out" on Vancouver Co-op Radio. A decades-long activist for LGBTQ issues, he remembers the impetus for the first parade which he says took place in 1981. 

"We tried to have it happen in 1980 and get a parade permit, but we were turned down," he explained. 

A shift in municipal government — Mike Harcourt became mayor — helped to change things.

"Mayor MIke Harcourt had promised to make a proclamation and a parade permit and he followed through on those promises. From there on, things started getting better," Myers said.

"It meant that we had recognition of our right to parade with a permit. That we could finally be out and about with our celebrations."

A poster for Vancouver's first gay parade in 1981. (Gay Unity 81)

Nevertheless, it wasn't smooth sailing. 

Myers said in the weeks leading up to the parade, hate literature was distributed door-to-door in Burnaby and Port Moody. 

At a charity baseball game between the queer community and a police team, Myers said 10-year-old kids were hired to hand out disturbing homophobic flyers. 

"We told people if they were afraid of coming out but wanted to come out, they could wear paper bags with holes in it for eyes," Myers said. 

A few people took up the offer, he said, but most didn't. It grew incrementally better over the years, although there were still high-profile incidents targeting gay businesses and individuals.

LGBTQ activist David Meyers says he's glad the Pride Parade has grown to its current size as one of the most popular events in the city. (CBC)

Today, the parade is one of the largest celebrations on the Vancouver calendar — something Myers is happy about. 

"I'm astounded we've come so far," he said. "People say it's commercialized but that's what it takes to put on such a big event."

He added it's good so many people participate because, he says, it means the LGBTQ community has a large number of political allies. 

"Not all those people are gay. There are a lot of straight supporters and their families. Those are political allies," he said.

"Your rights are never guaranteed. You have to always be on guard for them."

Vancouver's annual Pride Parade takes place on Sunday, Aug. 6.

Thousands of people participate in Vancouver's annual pride parade, one of the most popular events in the summer. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

Watch the week-long series Pride & Progress on CBC News Vancouver at 6