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A Brief History of Durham Pride

June is a month of celebration. From National Indigenous History Month, to 2SLGBTQ+ Pride, June celebrates people and vibrant cultures of the community.

Today’s festival known as Pride dates to a national 2SLGBTQ+ rights event held in August of 1973 within the cities of Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Saskatoon. The event followed the first protests against 2SLGBTQ+ discrimination and the criminalization of homosexuality. The protests occurred in Ottawa and Vancouver in 1971. The 1973 queer rights event was coined Pride Week and featured a picnic, a dance, an art festival, documentary screenings and a gay rights rally which occurred in each of the participating cities. These events marked a shift from the homophile movement into the gay liberation movement, countering societal shame with gay pride.

1971 Queer activists at the first ever National Pride Protest March in Canada.

Jearld Moldenhauer, “Ottawa Demonstration - August 28, 1971,” Canadian Gay Movement: History of Activism, accessed June 14, 2023, Toronto Gay Pride Week 1973 | Jearld Moldenhauer.

The first protest march occurred in Ottawa on Parliament Hill circa August 28, 1971. It concluded with the presentation of a petition to the government which outlined 10 protections to enact that would support the existence and equal rights of queer individuals. Following these protests, annual celebratory festivals were held across the province. In 1991 the city of Toronto officially endorsed the 2SLGBTQ+ Pride celebrations held in the city; and today Pride in Ontario is a beloved, vibrant and diverse jubilee that brings together millions of people from all walks of life in support of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. It shines a spotlight on the remaining problems, stigmas and prejudices queer people face and highlights the need for continued positive action, education and advocacy. Ontario Pride is dedicated to honoring history, celebrating diversity and working towards a more inclusive future in which everyone is shown the dignity, respect and equality they deserve.

Group of queer people and supporters gathered for Toronto Gay Pride Week 1973.

Jearld Moldenhauer, “Toronto Gay Pride Week 1973,” Canadian Gay Movement: History of Activism, accessed June 14, 2023, Toronto Gay Pride Week 1973 | Jearld Moldenhauer.

Our very own Durham region celebrates their 19th official Pride event this year. The first celebration was hosted in Whitby in 2004 by the Durham Pride Association attended by 150 people. The festival followed 2 years after Marc Hall’s lawsuit against the Catholic School Board. Said lawsuit took Canada by storm, making headlines across the country.

In 2002 the Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic High School located in Oshawa, asked students to submit the name of their prom dates under a mandate from the Durham Catholic District School Board. Marc Hall, a then 18-year-old, openly gay, senior student submitted the name of his boyfriend, the then 21-year-old Jean-Paul Dumond. The principal of the school, backed up by the DCDSB refused to allow Hall to attend the dance with his boyfriend. He stated that Hall had the right to be gay but by permitting the date they would be sending the message that the church supported his “homosexual lifestyle”. Marc Hall then took the DCDSB to court for discrimination. As news circled the country, he became part of the forefront fighting for queer equality. May of 2002 Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert McKinnon issued an injunction which ordered the school to allow Hall and his boyfriend to attend prom together. Hall eventually dropped the remaining lawsuit in 2005, not wanting to deal with a possibly years long case, but he remained a passionate 2SLGBTQ+ advocate. Later a documentary titled “Prom Fight: The Marc Hall Story”, as well as the televised movie “Prom Queen: The Marc Hall Story” were produced based on the narrative. Soon after emerged a live theatrical performance titled, “Prom Queen: The Musical”.

Marc Hall (left) and his then boyfriend Jean-Paul Dumond walking together to Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic High School prom 2002.

Aaron Harris (Canadian Press), “CBC: The real-life story of Marc Hall makes its Canadian musical debut,” Marc Hall, left, with his-then boyfriend Jean-Paul Dumond in 2002, accessed June 16, 2023, The real-life story of Marc Hall makes its Canadian musical debut | CBC News.

In 2008 the Durham Pride Association became a large non-profit organization. Today they’ve only grown larger, hosting events across Durham throughout the month of June attended by thousands. They celebrate and educate residents of Durham, aiming to promote inclusivity and achieve unity and acceptance across the region.

This Pride month get out to a local event and celebrate love!

Durham Pride Parade Hosted by Ajax 2022

Glenn Hendry, “The Durham Pride Festival kicked off with the Pride Parade Sunday in Ajax,” Insauga Durham: Ajax hosts Durham Pride Parade, accessed June 16, 2023, Ajax hosts Durham Pride Parade | insauga.


“Celebrating Pride Month 2023: Honouring History and Embracing Diversity”. Public Health Ontario, 1 June 2023, Accessed 16 June 2023.

“History of Pride in Canada”. Minden Pride: In the Haliburton Highlands, 16 June 2023.

McConnell, Liam. “Oshawa teen Marc Hall won the right to take his boyfriend to prom 20 years ago”. Insauga Durham, 16 May 2022, Accessed 16 June 2023.

“Our History”. Pride Durham, Accessed 16 June 2023.

Weymark, Jennifer. “Pride Month in Durham”. Oshawa Museum Blog, 19 June 2020, Accessed 16 June 2023.

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