2SLGBTQ+ history on campus

Celebrating Edmonton Pride Month by looking at Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer history at the U of A.

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For those who identify as part of the Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community (2SLGBTQ+), Pride is about celebrating diversity and inclusion; Pride is about increased visibility and ending the stigma; Pride is about how far we have come towards equality and yet how far we still must go for that right.

Pride is celebrated in many forms. At the U of A and other post-secondary institutions in Edmonton, Pride Week is celebrated in March when the winter term is in session, while the city of Edmonton celebrates Pride Month in June.

Even though Pride celebrations are a relatively recent phenomenon — 2022 marks 40 years since the very first Pride Weekend was held in Edmonton — 2SLGBTQ+ people have always existed in Edmonton and have been part of the University of Alberta community, whether visible or not.

Take a look back at some of the events, organizations and, most importantly, people that have led us to where we are today.


June 28, 1969

Stonewall Riots

The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous protests by members of the LGBT community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. As a result, many Pride events are held during the month of June, with many municipalities, including Edmonton, declaring June as Pride Month.


1975

GATE is created

GATE (Gay Alliance towards Equality) was an an organization focused on addressing the needs of the sexual-minority community. The organization would meet at the U of A and, although not affiliated with the university, was largely comprised of university students.


May 30, 1981

Pisces Health Spa Raid

Forty members of the Edmonton Police service, six RCMP officers, and two crown attorneys stormed the Pisces Health Spa, a bathhouse used by gay men, on May 30, 1981. 56 men were arrested and charged. A local TV station ran the names of those found at Pisces outing the men publicly. Michael Phair, who was among those arrested, would go on to become a well known community activist, Edmonton’s first openly gay City Councillor and Chair of the U of A Board of Governors.


August 1981

Sailing of the S.S. Pisces

Michael Phair and a crew of six launched the “S.S. Pisces” as part of the Klondike Days Sourdough Raft Race. The raft sought to draw attention to the injustices of the Pisces Health Spa raid.


June 24, 1982

Edmonton's First Pride Weekend

Seven local lesbian and gay groups helped to organize Edmonton’s first Gay Pride Weekend June 24-27 in 1982 with a theme of “Pride through Unity”. GATE was among the organizers.

Previously, Dignity Edmonton held an annual picnic and BBQ in June and the first collective Pride event is thought to have occurred at Camp Harris in 1980.


1984

OUTReach created

OUTreach, a LGBTQ+ student group, was created at the U of A.


1987

GATE evolves into GLCCE

GATE evolved into a community centre, answering to the broader Edmonton community’s need for services and resources, and changes its name to the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton (GLCCE) to be more inclusive to lesbian identities.


1991-1998

Delwin Vriend vs. the Province of Alberta

Delwin Vriend was fired by The King's College in 1991 for being in a same-sex relationship. Vriend filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, which rejected it because the Alberta Individual Rights Protection Act did not include protections to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Vriend sued the province for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, winning the case in 1994. The provincial government appealed the decision, and the original verdict was overturned in 1996.


1992

Michael Phair elected to Edmonton City Council

Michael Phair was elected to Edmonton City Council. He was the first openly gay elected politician in Alberta, and a longtime LGBTQ activist. Phair was a founding member of the Aids Network of Edmonton (now HIV Edmonton), a member of Edmonton’s Pride Festival Society Board of Directors, and a key figure in the work of many of Edmonton’s early and current LGBQT associations.


1998

Supreme Court of Canada unanimously rules in favour of Vriend

A legal team, which included Douglas R. Stollery, brought the case of Delwin Vriend vs. the Province of Alberta to the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997, and in 1998 the court unanimously ruled in favour of Vriend. Stollery would go on to become Chancellor of the U of A. Read the inside story of the case that changed LGBTQ rights in Alberta.


1998

SIDERITE is founded

SIDERITE was founded at the U of A in 1998 to raise awareness of the safety and security of university students following the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.


2000

Agape is founded

Dr. André P. Grace founded Agape in 2000 with the support of a group of faculty and graduate students in the Faculty of Education. Agape offered a university-wide educational program and resource centre to help students, faculty, and staff as well as practicing teachers to address personal and professional issues in relation to sex, sexual and gender differences in education and culture.


2003

Inside/OUT is founded

Kristopher Wells, a Killam Fellow and SSHRC Canada Scholar in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, and Dr. Marjorie Wonham, a Killam Fellow and postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Mathematical Biology, founded Inside/OUT. The organization functioned to provide a safe and confidential space on the university campus for sexual and gender minority faculty, postdoctoral students, graduate students, support staff and allies to network, learn and socialize in a supportive and welcoming environment.


2004

GLCCE becomes the Pride Centre of Edmonton

The mission of the Pride Centre of Edmonton is to provide supports that respond to the needs of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and of the people in their lives.


2004

Camp fYrefly is founded

The Camp fYrefly program was founded in 2004 by Faculty of Education researchers and educators Dr. André P. Grace and Dr. Kristopher Wells. The camp began as a university-community educational outreach project that researched the needs of 2SLGBTQ+ youth. It has since evolved into a volunteer-based summer retreat and is Canada’s only national 2SLGBTQ+ youth camp affiliated with a major research university.


January, 2008

Institue for Sexual Minority Studies and Services (iSMSS) opens

iSMSS is a non-profit organization and research institute housed in the Faculty of Education at the U of A, which initially emerged from Camp fYrefly. It works to create a society where all sexually and gender diverse people are free of discrimination. To accomplish this goal, the organization provides educational programming, and services like the CHEW Project, to support the 2SLGBTQ+ community through partnerships with various local Edmonton organizations. iSMSS also coordinates U of A’s annual Pride Week and the Alberta GSA conference.


2008

OUTLaw founded

OUTlaw Alberta is a student club within the U of A's Faculty of Law founded to serve and aid queer law students and their allies.


2011

GSA Conference started

An annual conference that offers educational workshops and presentations on 2SLGBTQ+ topics to students and teachers. It provides students with vital resources, resiliency skills, and access to safer spaces.


2013

fYrefly in Schools started

An anti-homo/bi/transphobia education program for all students, teachers, and staff in K-12 schools. In February 2020, the program has expanded to support rural communities and now also provides professional development for non-profits and businesses.


March 13, 2013

First U of A Pride Week

Organized by iSMSS, events included guest speakers, information sessions, an alumni event, film screenings and a parade.

The week also launched the Alumni Association's first Pride chapter and the kick-off of a campaign to expand iSMSS research and programs.


2014

C.H.E.W. project started

The Community Health Empowerment & Wellness (C.H.E.W.) project, one of iSMSS’ programs, initially started as a sexual health education program for queer youth and young adults facing barriers. Its focus has grown to include the reduction of houselessness, suicide, substance use and mental health concerns by providing a safe space and services particular to the needs of 2SLGBTQ+ youth and young adults free of cost.


September, 2014

The Landing launches

The Landing is a Students' Union service that offers support for gender and sexual diversity. The Landing operates programming based on a drop-in space and peer-run student support model.

The Landing supports 2SLGBTQ+ communities and individuals as well as their supporters, friends, family and loved ones.


2015

Where the Rivers Meet program began

Where the Rivers Meet is an iSMSS educational initiative that grew out of the need to address systemic discrimination and create specialized programming catering to the lived realities of 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous youth. It focuses on the celebration of Two-Spirit and Indigiqueer people, bringing culturally relevant teachings based on indigenous ways of knowledge to schools.


February 2016

Michael Phair appointed Chair of the U of A Board of Governors

The Province named former city councillor and community builder Michael Phair the new chair of theBoard of Governors. Since his time on Edmonton City Council, he had service as U of A's director of Community Relations, adjunct professor with the U of A's Faculty of Education and a member of the iSMSS advisory committee. In 2022 he received an honorary doctorate in law from the U of A.


June 2016

Douglas R. Stollery installed as the 21st Chancellor of the U of A

The U of A Senate elected Douglas R. Stollery as the institution’s Chancellor. Doug graduated with an LLB from the Faculty of Law in 1976 and was part of the legal team that brought the landmark case of Delwin Vriend vs. the Province of Alberta to the Supreme Court of Canada. Doug's service to the U of A include serving as a sessional lecturer in the faculties of Law, Business and Extension, member of the Faculty of Law Advisory Committee and director of the Alberta Law Reform Institute. In 2022 he received an honorary doctorate in law from the U of A.


September 2017

Lorne Warneke celebrated with U of A Distinguished Alumni Award

Lorne Warneke, '63 BSc, '67 MD, a fierce opponent against stigma of gender identity, sexual orientation and mental health throughout his unwavering campaign for equality, was recognized for his trailblazing work with a U of A Distinguished Alumni Award.

Warneke has promoted education on human sexuality and gender identity in the psychiatric residency program, created an annual award for a resident interested in human sexuality and gender, and there is an annual teaching award given out in his name.


September 2018

Research at the Intersections of Gender is established as a signature research and teaching area

In Objective 12 of For the Public Good, the U of A community committed to developing a portfolio of signature research and teaching areas.

Intersections of Gender is an academic hub focused on illuminating intersectional gender research, supporting interdisciplinary research collaborations, growing inclusive mentorship and teaching, and engaging communities across all sectors on gender and intersectionality.


2020

Corey Bighorn appointed National Camp fYrefly Coordinator

Corey Bighorn (he/him) is a part of the Anishinaabe and Dakota Nations, originally from Miskooziibeeng in Treaty 5 Territory. Corey, who identifies as Two Spirit, has spent the last 15 years developing a career in First Nations Health and Education. Corey shifted his focus during the pandemic, to more dedicated work within the 2SLGBTQ+ community. He now works for the U of A'sFaculty of Education, leading Camp fYrefly.


March 2020

CHEW OUTpost opens

CHEW opens an outreach office, the OUTpost. The OUTpost functions as a safe space for youth to rest, eat, shower, do laundry, connect with others and get off the street.


July 2020

Bill Flanagan joins the U of A community as its 14th President

Born and raised in Alberta, President Flanagan’s work in support of HIV/AIDS research and initiatives has made him a well-recognized and respected public figure. He currently serves as a director on the board of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, and has served as board chair of the AIDS Committee of Toronto—Canada’s largest community-based HIV service organization—as well as on the Ontario HIV Treatment Network and Canada AIDS Russia Project. In recognition of his community service, he was named to the Honour Roll of the Ontario AIDS Network in 2011.

Bill Flanagan is married to his husband Saffron Sri and is the U of A's first openly gay president.


September 2021

Permanent PrideWalk installed

While temporary Pride flag crosswalks had been installed on campus previously, a permanent PrideWalk was installed outside of International House as a way to show the commitment of the residence community to inclusivity.


June 2022

A Ruby Red 40th Anniversary Celebration!

The City of Edmonton declares June Pride Month, marking 40 years of Pride in Edmonton.


This timeline was created using resources from the University of Alberta, Institue for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, Edmonton Queer History Project and the Pride Centre of Edmonton.

These are a few of the many stories that contribute to 2SLGBTQ+ history at the University of Alberta. If you have a story you’d like to contribute, please share your story idea.