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social sciences

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The Vancouver Pride Parade and Pride Week Festival has since grown into an extensive community celebration, which, by the early 2000s, includes political, art, film, and music events. Queer visitors from all over the world visit the city in August to celebrate all aspects of gay culture.

In 1981, Vancouver lesbians hosted the Fifth Bi-national [i.e., Canada and Quebec] Lesbian Conference, where women from across Canada gathered for discussion, solidarity, and the first lesbian pride march in the city. Over the next decade a number of lesbian organizations were founded, including the Vancouver Lesbian Connection, which opened the only lesbian center in the nation, and the Gazebo Connection, which remains active in 2006 and claims the title of oldest lesbian organization on the west coast.

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In 1988, Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, who had first been elected to represent Vancouver and Burnaby as a New Democrat in 1979, came out. The first openly gay MP in Canada, he served until 2004.

Censorship Battle

Another landmark legal battle for gay rights began in Vancouver in 1986, this time on behalf of Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium, a gay and lesbian bookstore founded in 1983. With the support of other gay groups, Little Sister's brought a discrimination suit against Canadian Customs, citing the fact that customs officials improperly used obscenity laws as an excuse to search and seize book shipments crossing the border on their way to Little Sister's. Publications as diverse as Black Looks: Race And Representation by feminist academic bell hooks and the U.S. gay newsmagazine The Advocate were regularly confiscated.

After some fifteen years of litigation, the case was finally ruled on by the Canadian Supreme Court. In 2000, it ruled that Customs officials did indeed act in a discriminatory manner, but refused to declare the legislation authorizing customs officials to seize "obscene" materials unconstitutional. It did hold that the onus is on the government to prove that imported materials are obscene and prohibited Customs from confiscating material arbitrarily.

Little Sister's legal struggle against censorship continues. It has been the subject of two books, Restricted Entry: Censorship on Trial by Janine Fuller and Stuart Blackley (1996) and Forbidden Passages: Writings Banned in Canada (1995), edited by Pat Califia, and a feature-length documentary film, Little Sister's VS Big Brother (2002), directed by Aerlyn Weissman.

Gay Games III and Conferences of Older Lesbians

In August 1990, Vancouver took its place as an international glbtq center when the city hosted Gay Games III. Thousands of athletes and performers from around the world gathered at B.C. Place Stadium to compete in the first Gay Games held outside the U.S.

The Games festivities included a Vancouver Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, which soon became an important annual tradition, changing its name to the Vancouver Queer Film and Video Festival in 1996.

In September 2005, another international tradition began for Canadian lesbians when Vancouver activist Pat Hogan and the women of Sounds and Furies Productions organized the first West Coast Gathering and Conference of Lesbians 50 Years and Older. More than 160 women from western Canada and the U.S. met in Vancouver to network around issues important to older lesbians. The event was successful once again in 2006, and conference planners anticipate an even bigger third annual gathering in September 2007.

Immigration Rights

Immigration rights is an important issue among gay men and lesbians, especially in a country such as Canada where immigration is a significant means of growth. Vancouver has been in the forefront of the fight for equality in immigration policy. In 1978, Canadian gay rights received a boost when Parliament passed the Canadian Immigration Act, which removed a ban on homosexual immigrants.

In 1991, Vancouver activists formed the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force (LEGIT) to work for immigration rights for the partners of Canadian queers. LEGIT and its Francophone ally, Immigration pour conjoint(e) des gais et lesbiennes (ICGL), soon spread across Canada.

By 1993, many gay and lesbian partners of Canadian citizens were allowed to immigrate, citing "humanitarian and compassionate grounds." In 2002 the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was passed, making Canada one of the few countries that allowed gay men and lesbians to sponsor their partners. Now that same-sex marriage is legal across Canada, same-sex spouses enjoy the same rights in immigration as opposite-sex spouses.

Hate Crimes and Internal Fights

Although Vancouver is generally regarded as one of the most tolerant cities in the world, it has nevertheless been the scene of some unfortunate incidents. One of the most horrendous hate crimes in Canadian history occurred in Vancouver in November 2001, when a gay man was beaten to death in Stanley Park.

Sadly, some of Vancouver's most publicized queer rights legal battles have pitched members of the glbtq community against each other. In 1999, a woman named Susan Mamela filed a discrimination complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal against the Vancouver Lesbian Connection. Mamela had been banned from VLC's drop-in center and not allowed to work there as a volunteer because the organizers of the center did not consider her to be a lesbian. She won her case, the center was fined $3,000, and, soon after, the VLC closed its doors.

In a similar case, heard by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal in 2000-2001, a male-to-female named Kimberly Nixon filed a discrimination suit against Vancouver Rape Relief for denying her request to become a volunteer peer counselor. Though a 2002 decision awarded Nixon $7,500 for "hurt feelings," the tribunal reversed its decision on appeal and in 2005 ruled that Vancouver Rape Relief could reasonably claim that its counselors needed to have the experience of growing up female.

Despite the squabbles that have pitted different constituents of its glbtq community against each other, Vancouver remains a notably gay-friendly city. It is home to a vibrant and active glbtq community and an important glbtq tourist destination. The city's breathtaking natural beauty, sandy beaches, and natural rainforest, as well as its trendy restaurants, fashionable stores, and lively nightclubs, attract glbtq visitors from around the world.

Tina Gianoulis

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social sciences >> Overview:  Canada

In 2005 Canada became the fourth country to recognize same-sex marriages; the milestone victory solidified Canada's position as a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

literature >> Overview:  Censorship

Governments, publishers, editors, and even gay writers themselves have censored gay content in literature from the Renaissance to the present.

social sciences >> Overview:  Immigration Law

Those countries that allow the immigration of glbtq persons based on persecution in their home countries often raise difficulties or apply the existing laws inequitably, especially in the case of glbtq couples who apply for entry as domestic partners.

social sciences >> Overview:  Montreal

In the last two decades, Montreal has become friendly to and supportive of its glbtq citizens and visitors.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

Both parades and marches have served to render the glbtq community visible; whereas marches typically attempt to effect political change, parades and pride events affirm identity and community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Toronto

Toronto's glbtq community has gone from being a hidden subculture to a power base in politics, the economy, and the arts.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

literature >> Califia, Patrick

Controversial for defending sadomasochism and pornography, gender outlaw and sexual anarchist Patrick Califia, who recently underwent gender reassignment, is widely admired as a defender of individual freedom.

social sciences >> Egan, Jim

One of Canada's first gay activists, Jim Egan began demanding respect and equal rights in the late 1940s; in his later years he mounted a challenge to Canada's law on spousal retirement benefits.

arts >> Gay Games

A quadrennial sporting and cultural event designed for the glbtq community, the Gay Games has become a lucrative attraction for host cities.

literature >> Overview:  Gay and Lesbian Bookstores

The network of independent gay and lesbian bookstores that arose in the 1970s served as incubators for the literary and cultural development of the modern gay rights movement in the United States and abroad.

social sciences >> Gay Liberation Front

Formed soon after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the short-lived but influential Gay Liberation Front brought a new militancy to the movement that became known as gay liberation.

social sciences >> Robinson, Svend

Svend Robinson, the first openly gay Canadian Member of Parliament, has championed human rights throughout his long political career.

literature >> Rule, Jane

Though dealing forthrightly with lesbian and gay subjects, the novels and criticism of Jane Rule are deliberately nonpolitical in their commitment to diverse communities and a range of experiences.

social sciences >> Stonewall Riots

The confrontations between police and demonstrators at the Stonewall Inn in New York City the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 mark the beginning of the modern glbtq movement for equal rights.


Califia, Pat, ed. Forbidden Passages: Writings Banned in Canada. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 1995.

"Gazebo Connection." Connexions Online.

Little Sister's VS Big Brother. Director Aerlyn Weissman. Producers Cari Green and Aerlyn Weissman. Moving Images Distribution. 2002.

Fuller, Janine, and Stuart Blackley. Restricted Entry, Censorship On Trial. Vancouver: Press Gang Publisher, 1995.

Jackson, Ed, and Stan Persky. "Victories and Defeats: A Gay and Lesbian Chronology, 1964-1982." The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.

Warner, Tom. Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.

Young, Ian.  "Canada's March to Equality." The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 10.2 (March-April 2003): 42-44.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Vancouver  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2006  
    Date Last Updated October 8, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2006 glbtq, Inc.  


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