Pride 2015: The year in law

A rainbow flag supporting LGBT rights. Stock photo by Getty Images

It’s Pride season across Canada. While some cities have held their own events to celebrate LGBT identity and activism, the country’s biggest Pride party kicked off this week in Toronto.

Canada is known as an international leader in gay rights, and the country made some important strides this year. Here are a few highlights of legal changes affecting the LGBT community so far this year.

Political strides

Alberta’s May election made headlines and history for unseating a 44-year-old Progressive Conservative dynasty, overshadowing another milestone.

NDP candidates Michael Connolly, Estefania Cortes-Vargas and Ricardo Miranda all won seats, making them the province’s first openly gay MLAs.

In P.E.I., Wade McLauchlan made his mark as the province’s first openly-gay premier and the first openly-gay male premier (Ontario’s Kathleen Wynne was the first, taking office in 2013).

Ontario bans conversion therapy

Earlier this month, Ontario passed a landmark law banning conversion therapy and banned medical practitioners from billing provincial health insurance for treatments.

The widely-derided pseudoscience is based in a belief that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be fixed, thus turning subjects into healthy heterosexuals. The “therapies” vary, using drugs, psychotherapy and spiritual guidance, but they tend to achieve the same result of driving subjects more towards depression and suicide than any sort of conversion.

NDP MPP Cheri Di Novo’s bill received unanimous support in the provincial legislature on June 4.

Alberta backpedals on gay-straight alliances

Alberta’s PC government caught MLAs off-guard in March when it revived a controversial bill to establish gay-straight alliances in schools.

It was a stunning change of tack for a government that had pulled the bill just a few months prior. Then-premier Jim Prentice rode the groundswell of support for the clubs that aim to support students struggling with their sexual identity and promote LGBT rights.

The bill made GSAs mandatory in every school where a student requested one, and also prevents parents from removing their kids from class when sexual identity is discussed.

“These are signature changes that put Alberta in front of what’s happening in terms of these issues in the country,” Mr. Prentice said. “It’s been a historic day in the legislature.”

Edmonton embraces gender-neutral washrooms

Two months after Prentice’s about-face, the provincial capital made a major stride when it became just the second city in Canada to approve gender-neutral washrooms in all city buildings.

The single-occupant, self-contained washrooms are intended to provide choice, privacy and safe access to people who don’t identify as strictly male or female and would otherwise face discrimination in mutually-exclusive facilities.

Toronto’s Tory welcomes Pride

This one shouldn’t really be a news story, yet has made headlines nonetheless. After four years of the Rob Ford Show, the city whose motto is “diversity our strength” once again has a mayor who’s embracing Pride.

John Tory wore a rainbow-striped tie and made an enthusiastic speech as the city raised the rainbow flag to kick off Pride 2015. He pledged that his whole family would march in the parade and told the LGBT community: “You have a friend in the mayor of Toronto.”

Ford famously refused to attend Pride in every year of his mayoralty since it apparently clashed with an apparently impossible-to-reschedule annual family cottage trip. In 2014, Ford finally admitted that his preference for cottaging was just a feint and he really avoided the event out of personal preference. He reluctantly attended the 2014 flag-raising, at least.

Find a Lawyer