A short history of Pride celebrations in Ottawa

August 27th, 1971 would forever be known as ‘Gay Day’. On this rainy Friday afternoon, 200 homosexual men and women marched onto Parliament Hill – participating in the first LGBTQ+ demonstration in Canada. Downtown Ottawa could hear them chanting: “2,4,6,8 gay is just as good as straight”. While homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 (year of the Stonewall riots in NYC), the LGBTQ+ community continues to face oppression in their everyday life. Protestors made a list of 10 demands to the Canadian government in 1971. Today, all of the ten demands of the rally have been met.

June of 1986 marked the first gay pride celebration in Ottawa. It was a simple picnic at Strathcona Park attended by about 50 people. By 1989 pride celebrations were extended to an entire week of dancing, sporting events, and receptions. In the Spring of 1997 the Pride Committee of Ottawa–Gatineau (today’s Capital pride) received their first official proclamation from Ottawa City Council. The annual festivities were held at Ottawa City Hall until 2002 when they were moved to Bank Street. In 2008 the committee rebranded to Capital Pride and the festival grew into a citywide 10-day festival of over 20 events, including a Pride Parade and Dyke March for all members of the LGBTQ+ community, allies and their families.

2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the first gay pride rally in Canada. The theme of this year’s celebration, “We Still Demand” is a reminder that the battle to end queer discrimination is not over as well as being an homage to those who fought for the rights and freedoms that LGBTQ+ folk enjoy today. “Although pride may look a little different this year, and although the LGBTQ+ community has gained rights and privileges in the past years, there is still change needed to be made in society until we can truly become equals, we still demand access, we still demand a voice, and we still demand love!” said Osmel B. Guerra Maynes, Executive Director of Capital Pride.

This year the festivities will be taking place online and in person from August 22 – 29, 2021. You can expect a Virtual Queer Market, an Online Dance Party with DJ Sabdy Duperval, virtual film screenings, a series of virtual educational talks, virtual drag bingo with Candy Muse, the annual Capital Pride Drag Pageant, the Annual Pride Flag Raising Ceremony and The Capital Pride Annual Virtual Parade. To conclude the festival, Capital Pride is hosting a day-long in person event featuring a line-up of artists, DJs, drag performers and bands plus beer garden and food trucks on Sunday August 29th at Lansdowne Park. Osmel hopes to be celebrating together in the streets next year.