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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Toronto World Pride: A video look back at the 1989 Pride celebration

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As Toronto begins its rather massive World Pride celebrations this year, we’re pleased to present another film of a previous Toronto Pride celebration by James Leahy. Last year we posted his film of the 1988 Pride and today we have a much longer look at the 1989 Pride he has edited together. It begins with a tour of Church Street; twenty-five years later, a few things remain, but there’s much change. The famous Second Cup “Steps” are gone and old-Toronto commercial addresses have morphed into new lives, some with radical makeovers. It’s fun to try and spot what-was and what’s-now. There’s also footage from Cawthra Square Park and a temporary AIDS memorial that was set up before the permanent one we have now. Here are some thoughts on the video, and the era, from James:

This is a personal video memento of Pride Day, 1989. It is based on footage I recorded on June 24 and June 25 of that year. It is a long video because I wanted to capture the rhythms of that particular Pride Day: from the quiet dignity of the AIDS memorial to the spontaneous joy of the parade; from the laid-back post-parade chilling to exuberant and sexy street dancing; from political stand-up humour to end-of-the-day people-watching.

The theme of 1989’s Pride Day was “20/20: Setting Our Sights.” That year marked the twentieth anniversary of Stonewall. It had also been twenty years since the Canadian government decriminalized certain sexual acts between consenting adults.

Attendance at the 1989 Pride was estimated at 25,000, up from the previous year’s 15–20 thousand. The grand marshal for the parade that year was the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal, the first time an organization had been given the honour. The parade began at 3 pm at Church and Maitland, going south to Carlton, west to Yonge, north to Bloor, and then back down Church St to the 519 Community Centre.

Earlier in the month City Council voted to officially proclaim Pride Day, but through a series of political wranglings (how unusual!), Council held another vote and ended up cancelling the original decision. Mayor Art Eggleton, who opposed the proclamation, was on record as saying he preferred the concept of an Equality Day to be held in January!

Pride attendees were not the only group celebrating that weekend. The Shriners were holding their annual convention in Toronto at the same time.
The soon-to-be-iconic bar Woody’s would have to wait another month for its moment in the sun: it opened on July 26, 1989.

Because I could not be in all places at all times, I was not able to videotape all events and performances on that day. My apologies for anyone who was left out.

Videography (1989) and editing (2014) by James Leahy



  1. Thanks for posting. As a young queer moving to Toronto in the early 1990s so much is familiar.

  2. Wow, this was my first pride. It seems like a funeral compared to what’s happening today. Still, great memories.