Gay men and lesbians in Canada have experienced persistent patterns of discrimination and persecution.  They have:

  • Been treated as mentally ill and subjected to conversion therapies, including electroshock treatment
  • Been targeted by discriminatory laws, including criminal prohibition of same-sex practices
  • Not been permitted (until recently) to participate openly in the Armed Forces
  • Faced discrimination in employment and housing; and
  • Been the victims of hate-motivated crimes, anti-gay and anti-lesbian violence, and verbal harassment


  • 1969 - the federal government removed criminal sanctions against same-sex practices between consenting adults
  • 1977 - Quebec became the first province to prohibit discrimination against gays and lesbians, followed by most of the other provinces during the 80’ and 90’s
  • 1979 - prohibitions on the immigration of gays and lesbians were removed
  • 1996 - the federal government amended the federal Human Rights Act to include a prohibition of discrimination against gays and lesbians
  • 2000 – the federal government passed legislation that gives same-sex couples who have lived together for more than a year the same benefits and obligations as heterosexual common-law couples
  • 2003 – MPs pass Bill C-250, which adds “any section of the public distinguished by sexual orientation” to the list of groups protected from hate propaganda (this bill received royal assent in 2004)
  • 2003 – Ontario and B.C. courts recognize same-sex marriages as legal and  the United Church of Canada votes to recognize same-sex marriages
  • 2005 – Canada becomes the fourth country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain
  • 2006 – With the recognition of marriage gays and lesbians are now able to sponsor same-sex partners on equal terms and steps were taken to accommodate the barriers created by the lack of recognition of same-sex marriage in other parts of the world
  • Recent changes in legislation and in societal norms have created a growing acceptance of families with same-sex parents, as well as the adoption of children by same-sex couples and awarding custody of children to gays and lesbians

Continuing Discrimination

  • Gay and lesbian books and other forms of media continue to be censored despite court challenges
  • In criminal cases, homosexual advances have sometimes been treated as “provocation”, thus justifying a shorter sentence for an assailant, even when in similar heterosexual advance would not be treated in this way
  • The Criminal Code still discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, as the age of consent for anal intercourse is higher than for vaginal intercourse
  • Hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians continue to be widespread

For a more complete Canadian timeline, a world timeline and for updates and more details on any of these issues, see EGALE Canada.


Did You Know?

And even Robin Hood…

Robin Hood, the prince of thieves, may actually have been outlawed for being queer.  New studies of the medieval texts that first recorded his deeds suggest that he was actually a gay outlaw who had been exiled from “straight” society.  Little John, not Maid Marian, was his true love.

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