“No social movement can survive without two important elements: an intellectual
framework and a collective memory…We are what has happened to us, and therefore
the record of experience is essential in the process of becoming, and in the establishment
~ Peter Millard, from the introduction to the 1998 Doug Wilson Award
This chronology, or aide-memoire, covers the period from the establishment of the province’s
first gay and lesbian organizations in 1971 to the summer of 2005. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender and Two-Spirit (LGBTT) community is part of the diversity upon which Saskatchewan
was built, a diversity that continues to strengthen the fabric of provincial life. Until
recently LGBTT people have been a mute and largely invisible minority, and like many minorities
they have faced discrimination, silencing, and pressures to hide or deny their true stories.
Given the silence about sexual orientation traditionally maintained in Saskatchewan schools
and the media’s disinterest in sexual diversity stories that lack conflict, it is not
surprising to discover a general unawareness of the historical struggles, accomplishments
and contributions of local LGBTT people. Saskatchewan poet Patrick Lane once remarked that
here in the heartland of the Canadian West we often think ourselves to be outside history
and beyond the sweep of events. Saskatchewan residents would be wrong to think that changes
in laws and attitudes towards sexual and gender minorities are the result only of organizations,
activism and media attention from beyond our borders.
Members of the LGBTT community also share as well in this ignorance or indifference to their
local heritage. Younger and newer members of our community have often not heard the names
of those pioneers who dared to dream of change and who established the organizations and
institutions that now maintain and enrich our community. There is little awareness of the
campaigns over the past thirty years that achieved today’s greater visibility and acceptance.
Those without an appreciation of the long and bitter struggles behind today’s freedoms
may underestimate their fragility and vulnerability to attack.
Oral history seems particularly limited as a means of transmitting heritage information
within queer communities. The LGBTT community differs from other communities in which parents
and extended family members are an important resource for community history. Particularly
difficult in smaller LGBTT communities such as exist in Saskatchewan is the real paucity
of elders mentoring or transmitting forward community memory. Many of Saskatchewan’s
early participants in the struggle for gay and lesbian liberation have died, including far
too many lost to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Adding to these losses is a longstanding
out-migration of lesbians and gays to larger centres to the West and East. Many of our best
sources of community memory would now be found in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.
This chronology honors the efforts of the many individuals who against formidable opposition
established a safer and a more just, tolerant and accepting place for them right here in
Saskatchewan. Although the province’s LGBTT people have naturally been influenced by
national and international events and by the global media, they have never been just passive
consumers or simple imitators of a more urban queer culture. This chronology hopefully demonstrates
that the development of the province’s LGBTT community has been impacted by distinctive
Saskatchewan factors, including its rural-urban demographic, its social conservatism and
its tradition of progressive politics.
The compiler has been a participant in not a few of the listed events. In writing this timeline
I have tried not to begin with my own memory and opinions but to rely as much as possible
on printed documentary sources, most from the mainstream media. The goal here was to provide
simple answers to the what, where, when and how questions traditionally posed by journalists.
I refrained from speculating about motives, or analyzing meanings. These should soon be provided
by University of Saskatchewan historian Dr. Valerie Korinek who has a book in progress which
examines and evaluates the development of lesbian and gay communities on the prairies. Notwithstanding
these disclaimers it is impossible that the selection of events would not be influenced by
the compiler’s experiences, understandings and interests. The choice of chronology
events was completely my own and I alone am responsible for any omissions, misunder-standings
or outright mistakes. I welcome any suggestions or corrections that could improve the online
Reliable documentation depends upon the quantity and quality of the sources to which the
researcher has access. In many years the reader will notice more events listed from Saskatoon
than from Regina, the provincial capital. This disparity should not be viewed as a certain
proof that Saskatoon is or was always a more active or welcoming community for LGBTT people.
The records of the long established Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina appear to be lost
and Regina never sustained a journal like Perceptions, which carefully recorded events in
the local community. One might also remark a noticeable and longstanding disinterest of editors
at the Regina Leader-Post in publishing many LG news items, features and editorials, particularly
in comparison to their counterparts at the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Perhaps I have simply yet
to find enough sources to do full justice to Regina’s LGBTT heritage.
A few words about terminology. The chronology is subtitled Lesbian and Gay Life in Saskatchewan
because for most of the time period in question most of the individuals noted would have
identified themselves as gay or lesbian. During the 1970s some community members described
themselves as homosexuals and some women preferred the appellation gay woman to lesbian.
Early organizers / activists were, with a few exceptions, Caucasian and most familiar with
European and American constructions of gender and sexual identity.
Beginning in the 1990s there developed a greater understanding that lesbians and gays were
not the only, but perhaps only the largest of the minorities, outside a traditional heterosexual
conception of society. Soon some embraced the previously derogatory ‘queer’ to
encompass and connect a greater number of gender and sexual minorities. Others have preferred
to highlight individual identities in acronyms such as LGBTT. I have employed these more
recent identifiers when they seemed appropriate to the individuals or events described. Fortunately
there is now a greater understanding of and solidarity with transgender individuals in the
LGBTT community. Increased multiracial immigration and the growth in the size and visibility
of Saskatchewan’s aboriginal population have also increased awareness and acceptance
of other cultural constructions of gender and sexual identity.
~ Neil Richards
“Stories that make up a tradition contain conceptions of character of what a good
person is like, and the virtues that define such character. But the stories are not all exemplary,
not all about successes and achievements. A genuine community of memory will also tell painful
stories of shared suffering that sometimes create deeper identities than success. And if
the community is completely honest, it will remember stories not only of suffering received
but of suffering inflicted– dangerous memories.”
~ Robert Beulah, Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American
New York: Harper and Row, 1986. p. 153.
This chronology, commissioned by The Avenue Community Centre for Gender and
Sexual Diversity Inc. (formerly Gay & Lesbian Health Services) was researched and written
by Neil Richards.
The author wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance of the following individuals, institutions
- Saskatchewan Culture, Youth and Recreation for financial support through the Community
- The Avenue Community Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity Inc. for its sponsorship,
publication and distribution of the work;
- Cheryl Avery, Bob Challis and Dr. Valerie Korinek for contributions to the successful
- Donald W. McLeod, whose Lesbian and Gay Liberation in Canada: A
Selected Annotated Chronology, 1964-1975 was the inspiration and model;
- Alex Spence, whose detailed index Perceptions: The First Twenty-Two
- The staffs of the Saskatchewan Archives Board (Saskatoon Office), the University of
Saskatchewan Archives, and the University of Saskatchewan Library Special Collections Department
for access to research materials;
- The University of Saskatchewan Library and librarians Janet Catterall and Linda Fritz
for adding the document to the library website Saskatchewan Resources for Sexual Diversity,
and for support with proofreading;
- Cheryl Avery, Rita Chillak, Bruce Garman, Patrick Hayes, Gens Hellquist and Jean Hillabold
for their careful reading of draft texts and for many helpful suggestions;
- Luke Sather of Arundel Designs for typesetting, design and website conversion.