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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Archival film of the 1990 Toronto Pride celebration

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Today at Noon the City of Toronto kicks off Pride Week by raising the rainbow flag at City Hall and to celebrate here is a new video of the 1990 Toronto Pride put together by James Leahy from his own archive. Lots of great shots of Church Street 25 years ago and glimpses of one the old CBC buildings that was on the corner of Alexander and Church. There was a lot going on in 1990, and lots of villains including the City of Toronto which voted not to proclaim Pride again and in the video you’ll see a performance mocking then-mayor Art Eggleton. James’s full notes on this video are below, and you can also check out his films of the 1988 and 1989 Toronto Prides here on Spacing.

1990 was the year it almost rained on our parade. Fortunately, the rain let up in the early afternoon and the rest of the day was dry, albeit a tad cool and cloudy.

Because of the weather you might notice a different tone in the 1990 festivities: a bit more subdued than previous years. Many people are dressed in jackets and carrying umbrellas.

People also looked different that year: funkier, perhaps, with a punk aesthetic not seen at earlier Prides.

This was also the first year we saw metallic shiny balloons!

On the political front, City Council once again voted not to proclaim Lesbian and Gay Pride Day. However, as you will find out in the video, the Ontario Supreme Court had recently ruled that Ottawa City Council’s decision to rescind its initial Pride Day proclamation was discriminatory. This was thought to be a game-changer province-wide. And it was: the following year, 1991, would mark the first time Toronto City Council would officially proclaim Pride Day.

This year’s theme, “By All Means Necessary,” was in part a response to former federal cabinet minister John Crosbie, who, four years earlier, had told Parliament the PC government would take “all necessary measures” to protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The spirit behind the late black activist Malcolm X’s slogan, “By any means necessary,” also informs this year’s theme. It “acknowledges the responsibility of lesbian and gay groups to challenge attitudes in our society, such as racism, sexism, and negative attitudes about aging, poverty, and other differences between us that can cause decay and separation with our community,” said Ron Johnson, on behalf of the Lesbian and Gay Pride Day Committee.

Xtra! reported that attendance for 1990’s Pride Day celebrations was 25,000.

The parade float winners in 1990 were:
Judges’ Choice Award: Boots/Bud’s
Pride Award: Metropolitan Community Church
Commitee Award: Komrads

Unfortunately, Komrads’ float did not pass my filming location at Church and Alexander, so it is not represented in this video. My favourite floats were B-Boy and the Trillium Monarchist Society.

The Grand Marshalls of 1990’s parade were Team Toronto, who would soon be off to compete in Vancouver’s Gay Games.

Philip Hare designed the Pride button and t-shirts that year. Keith Haring’s influence was prominent in the early 90s, as you will notice in this video.

I wish I had been able to capture all the performances that year. It would have been nice to have seen Molly Johnson and Micah Barnes at that stage in their careers.

Sources: Xtra! and Pride Day 1990 program.