It’s been a decade of monumental change for queer and trans Canadians. We entered 2010 with legalized same-sex marriage and are now leaving 2019 with protections for transgender lives, gender-neutral passports, and soon, our very own Canadian “Drag Race.”
While there was major progress for LGBTQ+ rights, our communities also saw tumultuous times over the last 10 years: anti-trans rhetoric has been given platforms in our public libraries and universities. The gay blood ban has yet to be repealed. Indescribable grief and anger followed the murders of eight men, some of whom were part of Toronto’s gay village. The deaths and incarcerations of trans women this decade, especially those who are Black, Indigenous, and/or sex workers, underscore how much still needs to be done for the most underserved.
2010: Research ramps up on trans Canadians
To this day, little Canadian research matches the depth of work started by the Trans Pulse research project. It began a year-long survey of transgender Canadians about their experiences in 2009. Their findings revealed eye-opening statistics about trans Canadians, including who they are, the barriers they face, and how society treats them. Data from Trans Pulse has been used by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and referenced by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to influence government policies.
Other 2010 moments:
- After a gay couple was attacked by a firebomb in the middle of the night, people in Little Pond, P.E.I. collected donations to support the men.
- Pride Toronto received a “shame award” for attempts to muzzle Toronto group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. The grassroots group sparked various funding disputes between Pride Toronto and city council, as well as a national conversation on the politics of Pride.
2011: Death of bullied teen provokes change
Jamie Hubley was 15 when he died by suicide. His father, Ottawa Coun. Allan Hubley, said his son was the only openly gay student at his school and was relentlessly bullied because of it. Jamie’s death spurred politicians and celebrities like Rick Mercer to speak out in support of LGBTQ+ youth. There was change in government policy too; because of the Accepting Schools Act, Ontario’s public school boards are required to support gay-straight alliances (GSAs).
Other 2011 moments:
- The federal government began a pilot project to sponsor LGBTQ+ refugees.
- Gerry Rogers became Newfoundland’s first openly gay politician to join the House of Assembly.
2012: Miss Congeniality wins hearts
Vancouver model Jenna Talackova made history as Miss Universe Canada’s first trans contestant. Talackova was at first disqualified for being trans, but successfully lobbied to return to the event. She made it to the top 12 and was crowned Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants.
Other 2012 moments:
- Nova Scotia and Ontario became the first two provinces to explicitly add gender identity and expression as protected grounds in their human rights acts.
2013: Kathleen Wynne makes history
Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario Liberals won the 2013 election, making her Canada’s first openly gay premier. At times unpopular, the political leader was still seen as an LGBTQ+ role model.
Other 2013 moments:
- Bill C32 passes, which lifts stipulations on non-resident gay couples if they wanted to get divorced.
- Canada’s most comprehensive report on homelessness at the time is published, which highlights that many homeless youth in the country are LGBTQ+.
2014: Canada stands with LGBTQ+ athletes
In protest of Russia’s anti-gay laws, several Canadian city halls raised rainbow flags during the 2014 Soichi Olympics. Former mayor Rob Ford campaigned to remove Toronto’s flag, but eventually gave up.
Other 2014 moments:
- Toronto hosts Canada’s first World Pride.
- Canadian actor Ellen Page comes out as gay in a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference.
2015: Queer print media meets its end
Pink Triangle Press, publisher of the historically significant Body Politic magazine, shuts down print operations for Xtra. It marks the loss of Canada’s leading LGBTQ+ print publication, known for its coverage of queer and trans communities. Xtra journalist Andrea Houston was one of the first to report on a suspected serial killer in Toronto’s “The Village” neighbourhood.
Other 2015 moments:
- Canada has its first openly trans judge with the appointment of Kael Mckenzie to the Provincial Court of Manitoba.
- In a first for an Alberta MLA, Estefania Cortes-Vargas spoke in the legislature about their gender identity changing over time.
- Alberta passed Bill 10, which allowed students to start GSAs in their schools.
2016: Prime minister marches
Justin Trudeau became Canada’s first sitting prime minister to march in a Pride parade, appearing in the Toronto procession.
Watch: Trudeau Joins Canada’s Largest Pride Parade in Toronto. Story continues below.
At the same parade, Black Lives Matter Toronto brought the procession to a standstill, as they staged a sit-in criticizing Pride Toronto as failing marginalized communities.
Other 2016 moments:
- Canadians grieved the Orlando Pulse massacre with nation-wide memorials for the 49 people killed in the Florida gay nightclub.
2017: Canada enshrines trans rights
Transgender rights were finally recognized with the passing of Bill C16, also known as the gender identity rights bill, which amended the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to protect “gender identity” and “gender expression.” By law, trans Canadians now cannot be discriminated against because of who they are or what they look like.
Watch: MP’s Passionate Speech In Support Of Trans Rights Bill. Story continues below.
Other 2017 moments:
- The prime minister makes a historic apology on behalf of the federal government to LGBTQ+ Canadians victimized by discriminatory policies, such as “the gay purge” from civil and military services.
- Canadian passports began to include the gender-neutral marker “X.”
- Searyl Atli from B.C. becomes the world’s first baby to own gender-neutral ID.
2018: Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur arrested
After years of speculation over vanished men from Toronto’s gay village, police arrested Toronto landscaper Bruce McArthur. who was eventually charged with first-degree murder. For killing his eight known victims — Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Majeed Kayhan, Dean Lisowick, Kirushna Kumar Kanagaratnam, Abdulbasir Faizi, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and Soroush Mahmudi — McArthur received concurrent life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years. The earliest he can apply for parole is when he is 91 years old.
Watch: What We Know About Serial Killer Bruce McArthur. Story continues below.
Other 2018 moments:
- Figure skater Eric Radford became the first openly gay male athlete to win gold at a Winter Olympics event.
- Known for its anti-gay policies, Trinity Western University’s attempt to start a law school was rejected by the Law Society of B.C. The decision is upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada.
2019: Conversion therapy ban underway
Trudeau’s electoral promise to ban conversion therapy, a practice that tries to “cure” LGBTQ+ people of their sexual orientation or gender identity, could soon be reality. In a mandate letter, the prime minister directed Justice Minister David Lemetti to amend the Criminal Code in order to end conversion therapy in Canada.
Other 2019 moments:
- Over 200 organizations call on politicians to make LGBTQ2S+ rights an election issue during the federal debate.
- The Royal Canadian Mint issued a rainbow loonie to commemorate the decriminalization of homosexuality 50 years ago. But advocates point out the legal decision did little to curb discrimination and anti-gay arrests.
- The world’s most comprehensive archive on two-spirit people opened at the University of Winnipeg.
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