One of Toronto’s Biggest Festivals: Pride Toronto

Just recently I had a chance to sit down with Natasha Garda, Co-Chair, and Leon Mar, Media Coordinator of Pride Toronto. Pride Week is the fun and fabulous arts and culture festival that happens in the last week of June each year in Toronto. Pride Week celebrates our diverse sexual and gender identities, histories, cultures, families, friends and lives and has become one of Toronto’s biggest festivals and yearly entertainment events.

1. Please tell us about the history of Pride Week as part of Canada’s Queer Community and about this year’s theme

The roots of Pride Toronto date all the way back to 1969, when drag queens and queer street kids rioted at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. In the same year, the Canadian federal cad drawings toronto government decriminalized homosexual acts for consenting adults over 21, under then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau who uttered his famous “the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation” statement. In 1971 Toronto’s first “Gay Day Picnic” was held at Hanlan’s Point.

Throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s the gay community fought for recognition and in some years was denied permission to march on Yonge Street while the Mayor’s Office refused to officially recognize the event. In 1981 Metro Toronto Police raided various bathhouses and caused extensive property damage as well as public embarrassment and humiliation to the visitors of the bathhouses. Things improved when, in 1987, sexual orientation was included in the Ontario Human Rights Code. In 1991 80,000 people celebrated the Pride event. In 1992 the Supreme Court ruled that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act, gays and lesbians could not be excluded from entering the Canadian Forces. Finally in 1999, Toronto’s then mayor Mel Lastman participated actively (with a “Supersoaker” water gun) in the Pride parade, while corporate sponsorship revenues were higher than ever and put Pride on firm financial footing for the next year.

The theme for Pride Week 2005 is “Pride 25: 25 years and counting”. The event will be championed by Grand Marshal Salah Bachir, a generous philanthropist, successful businessman and visionary patron of the arts. As Chair of The 519 Capital Campaign he has raised more than $5 million for the expansion and renovation of The 519 Community Centre – $750,000 of which was donated by himself. Salah Bachir is President of Famous Players Media Inc., and Publisher of Famous magazines.

2. Pride Toronto has a lot of special events, please tell us about all the events you have planned.

– On Monday, June 20, 2005, Pride Toronto kicks off with a flag raising ceremony at City Hall. Citizens, politicians, friends and community members hear the Mayor read the Pride Week proclamation, raise the Rainblow Flag and enjoy food and entertainment.

– On Tuesday, June 21, 2005, the Pride Awards Gala 2005 marks the 25th annual Pride Week Festivities in Toronto. To salute this special year in history, Pride Toronto is organizing a wonderful gala dinner and awards show.

– The Pride Toronto Community Fair provides activists, community and non-profit groups with a public forum to explain their role in our community, educate about their mission, recruit volunteers and garner support for their cause. The Community Fair will take place 11:00 am on both Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th 2005. The Pride Toronto Marketplace allows vendors, artisans and businesses large and small a wonderful space to exhibit and sell their wares, services, products and marketing support to our community. Marketplace venues will be available from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm on both Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th 2005.

– Family Pride: This child-friendly, interactive space provides an oasis for families of all kinds. Family Pride features crafts, games, children’s entertainment by Rainbow Songs and face painting as well as on-site daycare on the Saturday and Sunday of Pride Weekend.

– The Dyke March (Saturday June 25, 2005 – 2pm) is an event within Pride Week (June 20th to the 26th) that provides a focus on women. It is open to women loving women of any race, culture, orientation, ability, health, economic group, family structure, faith or age. The March is for women only; however, we encourage men to support us from the sidelines.

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