Equity, diversity, and inclusion. Celebrate Pride Month with us!

pride flag

Are you celebrating Pride? We sure are. June is officially Pride Month in Canada (and all over the world). At Innovation, we’re happy to join in to support and celebrate the 2SLGBTQ+ community, who are an important and valued part of the communities we serve.

COVID-19 restrictions may have put a bit of a damper on in-person Pride Month celebrations this year – as it did last year. However, there are plenty of virtual events and festivities planned up to September, allowing you to celebrate Pride all this month and beyond.

While today, Pride Month is all about celebrating our diversity and embracing inclusivity, we don’t have to look too far into the past to see how different things were, even just 50 years ago. Canada decriminalized homosexuality in 1969 with the Criminal Law Amendment Act.  In this short time, the gay liberation and Pride Movement has come a long way.

Let’s take a look at the history of Pride events and the important landmarks for LGBTQ rights in our country.

The History of Pride

1973: Cities like Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Ottawa observed Pride Week in August 1973. This was a national event. It included activities such as documentary screenings, art festivals, picnics, dances, and rallies for gay rights. Vancouver even hosted what many consider to be its first pride parade. Pride Week 1973 was an important event in the history of the gay liberation movement in the country.

1978-80: Pride is official! While many consider Pride Week in 1973 to be Vancouver’s first pride parade, the city officially hosted a Pride march and festival five years later in 1978.  The next year, Montreal hosted an official Pride march and festival from June 16-23, 1979, joining Vancouver as the first two Canadian cities to host official Pride events. The city of Edmonton added itself to the list by hosting its very first Pride festival in 1980. Today, the Montreal Pride boasts of being the largest francophone pride celebration on the globe!

1981: Canada’s very first lesbian Pride march took place shortly after, in May 1981, again in the city of Vancouver. About 200 women marched from Robson’s Square to the West End Community Centre in the city in support of the movement.

1987: In Winnipeg, 250 people took to the streets to celebrate Pride on August 2, 1987. Today, that number has swelled to 35,000!

1988: The first official Pride march in Halifax saw about 75 people taking part in the march. Discrimination was still prevalent then. Many of the participants were wearing masks to protect their identity. Today, the Halifax Pride festival is one of the best in the country, with more than 150,000 participants proudly celebrating every year.

1990: While the ideas of non-normative gender and sexuality are largely western, the indigenous peoples of Canada have always seen these souls as sacred. In 1990, the third annual Native American/First Nations Gay and Lesbian Conference was held. The term Two Spirit (niizh manidoowag) was coined at this conference to allow Indigenous LGBTQ+ individuals to reject ‘English terms’ if they so wish. The acronym LGBTQ+ would also gain the 2S to include ‘Two Spirit’ individuals to become LGBTQ2S+ or 2SLGBTQ+

1991: Ten years after the city’s first mass Pride celebrations, an official Lesbian and Gay Pride Day was endorsed by the City of Toronto in 1991. Today, the Pride celebrations in Toronto are one of the largest in the world.

1997-99: The first Trans Art Festival on the continent was the Counting Past 2 festival that began in 1997 in Toronto. It showcased films, art and artistic performances by trans creators. Many believe it was the first festival of its kind in the world. Two years later, the Toronto Pride celebrations also featured another first – a dedicated black queer space in the form of Blockorama, called ‘Blocko’, to celebrate black queer and black trans art and creativity.

2009: While there have been Gay Pride Marches, Trans Marches had never been held in the history of Pride celebrations. This changed on June 27, 2009, when the country saw its very first Trans March in Toronto.

2010: The next year, in 2010, the Fredericton City Council granted permits for the city’s very first Queer Pride Parade. More than three hundred people and several hundred onlookers participated in this historic celebration. Another historic feat took place in the same year. For the first time ever, a Pride House was included for LGBT athletes in the Winter Olympics, held in British Columbia in 2010.

2014: Almost forty years after the country’s first Pride event, Pride Week in 1973, the Ontario cities of Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie hosted their first ever Pride festivals.

2016: Two years later, saw another first – a pride flag was raised on Parliament Hill in Ottawa for the very first time.

As you can see through its history (that still continues to be made), Pride is not just about celebration, but also about courage, hope and real change. Beyond the Pride marches in the street, there were many rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada and legislation that has played a vital role in ending some of the discriminations faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community in the country too.

No More Discrimination

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was banned in Quebec in 1977. It was the second jurisdiction in the world to pass such a ban. A similar ban was imposed earlier by Denmark. While discrimination was banned, in the same year another ban was lifted – one that discriminated against gay men. The Canadian Immigration Act originally prohibited gay men from immigrating. The act was amended in 1977 allowing people of all sexual orientations to immigrate.

We’re All Equal (and Welcome)

In 1992, gays and lesbians were officially allowed to apply to and be drafted into the military. Others around the world who were facing persecution in their home countries were welcomed to apply for refugee status in Canada. Sexual orientation was included in Section 15 of the Charter that says Canadians have the “right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination”. Same-sex couples were allowed to legally adopt, and later, marry. They were also given the same rights as opposite-sex couples when it came to common-law relationships.

At Innovation

Even though June is officially Pride Month, we believe that the spirit of inclusion, diversity, and equity it promotes should be celebrated throughout the year. While traditions and celebrations are a great way to show your support, true support starts with systemic change and real inclusion within organizations.

At Innovation Credit Union, equity, diversity, and inclusion are an immensely important part of our policy and strategic plan. We believe that banking is for everyone. As a credit union, we’re here to serve our larger community. That includes the 2SLGBTQ+ communities as well. Of course, this spirit of inclusion is not reserved just to our customers or credit union members, but our employees as well. We are  committed to ensuring that internal policies, practices and systems are free of barriers, emphasize the value of diversity, and promote full participation to ensure dignity, respect and equal access for all employees.

We support the Canadian Human Rights Commission  which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted.

We also support the Employment Equity Act which identifies disadvantaged groups such as Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, members of a visible minority, and women. As part of our Responsible Banking™ ethos, we have moved to make Innovation Credit Union a workplace that provides equity through employment to each one of the disadvantaged groups. It is the least we can do, in our efforts to promote the well-being of all the communities that we serve. To ensure diversity and inclusion in our workforce, Innovation has a Diversity and Inclusion Committee in place. The 13-person committee meets quarterly and ensures our inclusion and diversity initiatives are not only on paper but put into place at all levels of the organization. It’s the right thing to do and makes smart business sense. The more diversified our staff, the more knowledge, skills, abilities, and ideas we have in our teams.

Happy Pride Month!

From all of us at Innovation, we hope you celebrate and support the 2SLGBTQ+ community, the wonderful diversity, and inspiring policies of inclusivity in our country. Whether you participate in an online or community event, cheer from the side lines, or march with your head held high, we’re with you all the way.