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Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario fonds
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- Textual record
- Graphic material
- Moving images
- Sound recording
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CA ON00047 F0044
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1974- 2009 (Creation)
- Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario
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9.58 m of textual records
164 Graphic materials
70 colour photographs [varying sizes]
1 polaroid photograph
1 black and white photograph
85 photographic slides
32 Audio Visual materials
24 Audio Cassettes
1 Audio reel
7 video cassettes
1 white corrugated plastic sign
114 Electronic records
105 3 ½ in. floppy disks
6 5 ¼ in. floppy disks
1 512MB USB drive
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For a complete administrative history of the CLGRO please see Appendix A and B of this finding aid, which are pamphlets the organization produced to chronicle their own history in timeline form. The administrative history below cannot be so all encompassing.
The Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (initially the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario) began on January 18 and 19th, 1975. The administrative records from this time largely feature Harold Desmarais overseeing the administration out of a house, 29 Granby Street in Toronto. CGRO was a incorporated not-for-profit coalition organization with the goal to fight for the liberation of the gay and lesbian community in Ontario. At its founding it was made up of 9 groups from around Ontario, but grew to consist of around 30 member groups (this number fluctuated) and hundreds of individual members. They ceased operation ca. 2007-2008. The organization had several administrators throughout its 30+ year history, evident through the records. Their coalition’s focus was always to fight for LGBTQ+ rights publicly and legislatively. The coalition was involved in and initiated several briefs, lobbied for and against various bills, succeeding in one of their central issues, which was for the inclusion of sexual orientation (Bill 7) in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
They held educational tours (traveling slideshows around the province), conferences, resource sessions for other activists, and started a university for activists. Coalition members, and group representatives travelled around the province for a number of years as steering committee and annual meetings were held in various cities and towns, however this practice was not maintained throughout the organization’s operation. The Coalition staff themselves, as well as the Coalition groups were the leaders of rallies, protests and community meetings. Liaising with politicians, lobbying government and other organizations.
CLGRO had several long term administrators and volunteers, including Harold Desmarais, Tom Warner, Christine Donald, and Nick Mule.
The following are several excerpts paraphrased from the CLGRO’s organizational history pamphlet “Way to Go” found in appendix A
In February 1975 CGRO established the Committee to Defend John Damien, in support of Damien who was fired from the Ontario Racing Commission for his sexual orientation. CGRO held rallies and benefits for Damien demanding he be reinstated and sexual orientation be made one of the key issues for the 1975 provincial election. This is also around the time when CGRO finished its first brief to the legislature The Homosexual Minority in Ontario, which was presented to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and showcased instances of discrimination in housing and jobs, outlining a series of demands for lesbian and gay rights. In March 1978 CGRO’s second brief, Discrimination and the Gay Minority, was presented at Queen’s Park press conference and gained support from a Toronto Star editorial and a Globe and Mail Queen’s Park columnist. In September of the same year, CGRO’s Never Going Back conference changed the coalition’s structure allowing for the inclusion of individual members.
In April 1981 CGRO’s third brief, The Ontario Human Rights Omission, was presented to MPPs. In June a CGRO delegation appeared before the legislative committee for a hearing on Bill 7. Then in August CGRO presented their brief to Arnold Bruner at a public meeting on gay-police relations at Jarvis Collegiate in Toronto.
In February 1982 CGRO released The Gay Organizer with the Right to Privacy Committee, an organizing manual for lesbian and gay activists, launching it at the Doing It! national conference. They also reprinted their educational tabloid, Who Are These People and What Do They Want? and committed themselves to producing a What is CGRO? slide show.
In September 1982 the first CGRO bike-a-thon held on the Toronto Islands.
In April 1986 CGRO presented a draft fourth brief to the Ontario Legislature, documenting cases of discrimination and urging protection. Then in May CGRO held a press conference at Queen’s Park to publicize the brief. Later that day, the Justice Committee amends Bill 7 to include the addition of “sexual orientation” in the Ontario Human Rights Code.
In October 1986 (with a grant from the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal) CGRO produced their finalized fourth brief, Discrimination Against Lesbians and Gay Men: the Ontario Human Rights Omission. On December 2, 1986 the “Sexual Orientation” amendment was passed by the Ontario Legislature after two weeks of debate and media attention. John Damien lived to see this change but died on Christmas Eve, three weeks later of pancreatic cancer.
In September 1987 CGRO changed its name to Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), and in March 1988 they adopted a new mission statement.
CLGRO received $375,000 in April 1992 from Health and Welfare Canada to fund three years of Project Affirmation, a project which studied the health and social service needs of minorities in Ontario. In 1993 they received another $75,000 for outreach work.
Then in July 1992 CLGRO published their Happy Families brief, which surveyed 79 discriminatory provincial laws against same-sex relationships. The brief proposed amended wording, and an inclusive definition of “spouse”. CLGRO also called for the establishment of a relationship registry system where registered same-sex relationships would have the same rights and obligations as registered opposite-sex relationships.
In November 1992 CLGRO received its letters patent as an incorporated, non-profit organization.
In February 1993 Tom Warner, founding CLGRO member was appointed Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Then in May 1993 CLGRO adopted a bylaw adding bisexuals to CLGRO’s mission statement and policies. Another bylaw was added to broaden CLGRO’s objectives recognizing that lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men experience the world differently “depending on their sex, race, age, class dis/ability, language, and other factors, and that for many of us the struggle for equality for bisexuals, lesbians, and gay men cannot be separated from other campaigns for justice in which we are engaged.”
They then co-sponsored “Taking the Next Step”, a brief presented by the Lesbian and Gay Immigration Task Force (LEGIT) to the Federal Minister of Immigration, which called for same-sex spousal relationships to be recognized in Canadian immigration policy.
In May 1994 CLGRO members Tom Warner and Mary-Woo Sims co-founded the Campaign for Equal Families (CEF), which coordinated and lobbied for the passage of Bill 167, the CLGRO Working Group on Relationship Recognition subsumed into CEF. CEF hired organizers and secured letters and signatures from over 20,000 people in support of Bill 167. They also raised $60,000 to fund the campaign.
On June 9, 1994 Bill 167 was defeated on second reading by 68-59 votes. “Shame” was shouted from the public galleries and thousands protested the bill’s defeat later that evening. The Campaign for Equal Families became a permanent organization separate from CLGRO.
In January 1995 CLGRO celebrated its 20th anniversary and the Rainbow Directory was launched in the same month. In September, “Pass it On” a historical exhibit sponsored by CLGRO, the Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal, and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives opened and held panel discussions.
In May 1996 the first newsletter of the Sexual Orientation in Education Project (SOEP) a CLGRO working group was published. Then in September ON GUARD - a Critique of Project Guardian, a brief written by the Homophile Association of London and CLGRO was also released.
In May 1997 Systems Failure, Project Affirmation’s report was released at a press conference in London. In May of the following year CLGRO was restructured to reduce meetings and newsletters to three a year.
CLGRO called for the amendment of the Criminal Code to institute a uniform age of consent for anal intercourse in 1998, to conform with the May 1995 Ontario Court of Appeal Carmen M decision.
Then in September of 1998 CLGRO declared their opposition to the deportation of Shadmith Chavez to Mexico.
In March 1999 CLGRO participated in an OHRC seminar on disability issues and the Human Rights Code, addressing issues around sexual orientation and lesbian, gays and bisexuals with disabilities. On October 25, 1999 the Harris government introduced “Bill 5, An Act to Amend Certain Statutes Because of the Supreme Court of Canada in Decision M v. H.” The bill changed 67 laws, introduced “same-sex partner” as a term, and gave same-sex relationships almost all the rights and responsibilities that opposite-sex common-law relationships have. However it failed to change the Ontario Income Tax Act which used the same definition as the Federal Act. CLGRO supported bill 5 despite the offensive title and “its rhetoric aimed at placating its social conservative constituency (the government says it was forced to act by the Supreme Court and that it has preserved in law the use of the terms “spouse” and “marital status” to apply only to heterosexual relationships).”
In November 1999, CLGRO and various other community groups hold a media conference opposing new Toronto police chief Julian Fantino, due to his actions as chief during Project Guardian in London.
In February 2000 “Are We Spouses Yet?” a new CLGRO leaflet written by Christine Donald was approved for distribution and provided information on the changes in legal recognition of same-sex couples in Ontario, since Bill 5 (Oct 1999) gave couples almost the same standing as heterosexual common-law couples.
June 2000 CLGRO was Honoured group in the Toronto Pride Parade for their 25th Anniversary. CLGRO marched with the banner, while Tom Warner and Marie Robertson sat in the cadillac convertible behind the Grand Marshals.
CLGRO sponsored “Queers Making Noise - Activism of All Ages” a forum organized by Supporting Our Youth (SOY) as part of the Rainbow Millennium Celebration.
In June 2000, Tom Warner (25 years), Christine Donald (20 years), and Nick Mule (10 years) are all honoured for their volunteer work by the Ontario government in a ceremony.
In April 2001 CLGRO launched “Liberation in the 00s” a project to figure out where the community is at and where they want to go, and what makes CLGRO different from other groups.
The Project Affirmation follow up continued, CLGRO held meetings with healthcare and social service representatives. They eventually formed a CLGRO reference group called the Rainbow Health Network.
In May 2001 the Steering Committee set priorities: to gain prejudice-free workplace; youth issues (coming out issues, age of consent, sex education, prejudice-free schools; relationship recognition; access to health and welfare services; policing and law issues.
CLGRO joined LEAF, NAC, EGALE and others in the intervenor coalition to fight Scott Brockie’s appeal of the OHRC tribunal’s February 2000 ruling that his printing firm ‘Imaging Excellence’ should pay the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives $5000 damages for his 1996 refusal - on Christian gounds - to print their letterhead.
Nancy Nicol received a $50,000 “established artist grant” from the Canada Council for the Arts for a documentary on lesbian and gay rights in Ontario focussing on CLGRO.
In September 2001 Tom Warner and Greg Pavelich assisted with the formation of the broadly based Toronto Police Accountability Coalition and CLGRO becomes a member of a coalition of groups looking at the Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
In April 2002, CLGRO supported Marc Hall by applying for an injunction allowing him to take his same-sex partner to his Catholic high school prom. In support of Hall, CLGRO wrote to the Minister of Education, they also presented him with the John Damien Award for his “outstanding contribution” to lesbian and gay rights in Ontario.
Then in May 2002 Nancy Nicol’s film, Stand Together: A History of Ontario’s Gay Liberation Movement, Part I premiered at Inside/Out, featuring work by CLGRO. Tom Warner’s book Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada was launched in June, then in October the Rainbow Health Network was launched at the 519.
In April 2003 the first meeting of the Bawdy House Laws Committee is organized and facilitated by CLGRO. Nick Mule presents on community development work on LGBTTIQ health and social service issues At Egale’s Rainbow Visions Conference at McGill University in May 2003.
In May 2004 The John Damien award is given posthumously to Greg Pavelich.
A joint CLGRO and Rainbow Health Network project proposal is accepted by the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition providing funding from Health Canada to form partnerships with provincial health and social services professional associations to develop educational workshops for workers in those sectors about LGBTT issues, the goal was also to develop a Northern Ontario model for networks similar to the Rainbow Health Network, and to expanding the federal social determinants of health.
In August 2004 CLGRO members launched a new committee in conjunction with bathhouse owners, health and political organizations to lobby for the repeal of bawdy-house and indecency laws, and to raise money to support court challenges. The following month Steering Committee member Louise Langalais became CLGRO Director as Treasurer, after Christine Donald’s resignation as Director, Christine however remained on as Office Manager. In the same month CLGRO applied for charitable status.
CLGRO continued to lobby for governmental changes around LGBTQ+ rights, for health and social services, they ceased operation from 2007-2008
Scope and content
The CLGRO fonds contains records pertaining to the operation and activities of the organization. There are financial records, correspondence, newsletters, meeting minutes, projects the coalition was involved in, as well as records pertaining to external and member groups, and records collected for the coalition’s own research and resource creation, such as clippings, periodicals, and other external materials.
Immediate source of acquisition
Fonds have been arranged into series and subseries of best fit. Original order of records within those subseries has largely been maintained. Electronic records have not been reviewed, arranged, or described.
Language of material
Script of material
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Restrictions on access
The collection is open to researchers, however when publishing pseudonyms must be used for CLGRO membership lists, phone logs, and individual financial donation records. Please see file level restriction listings for details. Also restricted from publication is any banking information and any social insurance numbers that the archivist may not have seen while culling and may still sit in the fonds.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Binders, duotangs, folders, and paperclips were removed. A/V material, electronic material, and graphic materials have been physically removed for appropriate storage.