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Pride Toronto’s planned theme of “50 Years of Decriminalization of Homosexuality” perpetuates the mythology of the 1969 Criminal Code reform

January 28, 2019
For immediate release
Media contact:  Tom Hooper – thooper@yorku.ca

The organizing committee of Anti-69 has learned that Pride Toronto’s theme for 2019 will be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada (see below). Anti-69 is a conference taking place from March 23-24 at Carleton University, it brings together activists and academics to deconstruct the mythologies of the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

Anti-69 spokesperson Tom Hooper stated, “The so-called ‘decriminalization’ of homosexuality in 1969 is based on a complete myth.” The reform was neither the legalization nor decriminalization of homosexuality. “No offenses were repealed in 1969,” Hooper continued. “Instead, the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau added an ‘exception clause’ for the offences of gross indecency and buggery. They would no longer be crimes if committed in private between two adults aged 21 and over.” This was based on a discriminatory age of consent based on the myth that male adolescents and young men needed extra legal protection from ‘homosexual advances.’ Meanwhile the age of consent for most heterosexual sex was then set at 14.

These were not the only offenses used to criminalize LGBTQ2+ people for consensual homosexual sex and trans gender expression. “The 1969 reform didn’t touch other provisions of the Criminal Code, including indecent acts, obscenity, or vagrancy,” said Hooper. “And most important in the case of Pride Toronto: the 69 reform left intact the infamous bawdy house law. In 1981, more than 300 men were arrested in raids against gay bathhouses, all under this antiquated Criminal Code provision. The organization that came to be known as Pride Toronto was created from the protest of these raids. In other words, Pride Toronto exists because homosexuality was not decriminalized in 1969.”

The reforms did not dislodge legal notions of indecency and this would be used against LGBTQ2+ people not only in bawdy house charges throughout the 1970s and 1980s (click here to see chart), it was used in obscenity charges against The Body Politic and by Canada Customs seizures against Little Sister’s bookstore in Vancouver and Glad Day in Toronto. According to Hooper, “Criminal charges against LGBTQ2+ people not only continued after 1969, they escalated.  Mass arrests took place in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and Edmonton, among others.”

Hooper also noted that in the debates in the House of Commons “the main argument used by supporters of reform was that people who committed homosexual acts in ‘private’ were not criminals but were instead ‘mentally ill’ and should be under a psychiatrists, psychologists or doctor’s care. This is not an argument used by people supporting LGBTQ2+ rights.”

In their draft theme statement Pride Toronto does acknowledge that: “Decriminalization did not equate to equality, either in society, or where the law was contradictory; the law continued to make illegal sex between consenting adults in anywhere other than private spaces,” but the focus on the decriminalization of homosexuality profoundly misleads people as to the nature of the 1969 reform.

While the theme statement mentions the crucial Stonewall riots of 1969 that led to the formation of gay and lesbian liberation groups around the world, including the Gay Liberation Front in Vancouver in November 1970, the front de liberation homosexual in Montreal in March 1971, and Toronto Gay Action in Toronto in 1971, it does not note that the Stonewall rebellion was against a routine police raid. The history of pride comes from a history of resistance to police repression, whether at Stonewall or in the Toronto bath raids.

In the proposed theme statement Pride Toronto argues that because of the ‘decriminalization’ of homosexuality in 69, “Canada is now considered the most LGBTQ2+ friendly nation in the world, and took up the road to equality first and has come the furthest. Throughout June 2019 we want to ensure that the world knows to follow Canada's lead and recognize everyone in our community as unique and deserving of the right to equality.” Hooper responded saying, “the 69 reform had nothing to do with establishing social equality for LGBTQ2+ people, that this statement ignores important struggles for our rights around the world, including in the global south and it ignores all the work that remains to be done here at home to establish social equality.” Hooper made other connections to this reform, “celebrating 1969 attempts to obscure the history of colonialism and the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty and Two-Spirit identities. This so-called decriminalization was directly linked to the policy of assimilation in the 1969 White Paper. This was all part of Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s ‘Just Society.’”

Speakers at Anti-69 include: Christo Aivalis, Beverly Bain, Cheri DiNovo, OmiSoore Dryden, Punam Khosla, Gary Kinsman, Robert Leckey, Tim McCaskell, Valerie Scott, Christabelle Sethna, and Rinaldo Wallcott  Sessions will address: 1969 101, Critique’s of Trudeau’s ‘Just Society,’ The White Paper and Settler Colonialism, Sex Work, Reproductive Justice, Early Activism and “We Demand,” Sex, Crime and the Law, Queer Activist History, Activism Now  and more.

For more information on Anti-69 visit: www.anti-69.ca
Media contact:  Tom Hooper – thooper@yorku.ca

 


Leaked Pride Toronto theme statement for 2019

In 2019 Pride Toronto's theme is the 50th Year of Decriminalization of Homosexuality In Canada.

In 1969 Canada decriminalized homosexuality, simultaneously in 1969 the Stonewall Riots took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York, which began the international fight for LGBTQ2+ rights around the world. Decriminalization did not equate to equality, either in society, or where the law was contradictory; the law continued to make illegal sex between consenting adults in anywhere other than private spaces.

Our theme this year celebrates the beginning of the LGBTQ2+ community's fight for complete acceptance by honouring The Stonewall Riots New York in June 1969. Our theme celebrates the real beginning of our fight for safety and justice under the law and in society as a whole. It centres the rainbow, as it symbolizes the universal way we are connected, and recognizes that the rainbow is the true nature of our community; inclusive, embracing everyone in our community. We demonstrate growth by highlighting the flag, and all of the flags our community every letter in the community's acronym. From the Trans flag to the Bi flag, the community is growing, and the representation of all of us is what makes us truly diverse.

The 50th year of Decriminalization in Canada is significant. Canada is now considered the most LGBTQ2+ friendly nation in the world, and took up the road to equality first and has come the furtherest. Throughout June 2019 we want to ensure that the world knows to follow Canada's lead and recognize everyone in our community as unique and deserving of the right to equality.

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