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Gallery 3: Modern Canada ⟶ Diversity and Human Rights ⟶ An Era of Affirmation and Change

LGBTQ Canadians
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Canadians were widely perceived as deviant and faced social discrimination and criminal charges. The federal government fired hundreds of LGBTQ public servants in the 1960s on the assumption that they were a risk to national security. By the late 1960s, civil rights campaigns led to a Criminal Code reform (Bill C-150) that decriminalized homosexual acts between two consenting adults in private.

Taking a Stand

The We Demand marches in Ottawa and Vancouver in 1971 called for further measures to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. These protests effectively marked the beginning of Canada’s gay rights movement. Changes to the Criminal Code in 1969 were limited in scope; remaining indecency laws continued to be used to police homosexuality. Over 300 gay men were arrested in the Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981, the largest mass arrest since the October Crisis in Quebec. This galvanized the LGBTQ community, triggering large-scale protests.


Marriage for All

After years of grassroots appeals for equal access to civil institutions, including marriage, the LGBTQ community won a series of victories in Canadian courts in the 1990s. Many saw the right to marry as integral to the public acknowledgement of equality. Following court decisions and public debates, the federal government passed the Civil Marriage Act in July 2005, making Canada the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

Making Space

Transgender Canadians like Tru Wilson and Harriette Cunningham of British Columbia advocate for legal and social recognition of their rights.


This sweater was hand-knit using hair donated by members of the LGBTQ community. Named the Gay Sweater, it was used to initiate discussion about sexual identity, bullying and belonging.


The Day of Pink is an international, youth-centred campaign to promote safe and inclusive schools and communities.

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Photo at top of page:
Inscription: Wear your pride! La fierté, ça s’affiche! Ottawa, Canada July 14–23 juillet 1995
Gift of Denis LeBlanc
CMH, 2010.213.2