Why is Pride celebrated in different months across Canada?

Pride season is well underway across Canada.

The timing of local celebrations varies, however, with some events taking place in June and others after the formal start of summer.

Why? History, to a large degree, explains it, but also weather and scheduling considerations.

Why June?

The Stonewall story is why Pride is often celebrated at this point in the calendar.

In June 1969, a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City sparked an uprising. (On the Canadian side of the border, meanwhile, an omnibus bill had just passed in Parliament decriminalizing some "homosexual acts" occurring in private, though it eventually spurred protests over its shortcomings.)

Stonewall Inn nightclub raid. Crowd attempts to impede police arrests outside the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village.
A photo from the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village. (NY Daily News Archive/Getty Images)

"That night, patrons surprised police by refusing to comply with their racist, homophobic and transphobic demands, and the refusal triggered five days of riots, or protests — an event that's considered a watershed movement, in what is now known as the gay liberation movement," said Rebecka Sheffield, an archivist and author on 2SLGBTQ+ history.

"So, we celebrate Pride Month as an anniversary of the Stonewall events," said Sheffield, who noted Canada's own history also informs its own scheduling of events on this side of the border — such as in the case of Toronto.

In 1971, the first "Gay Day Picnic" was held in Toronto — in August, though, rather than June. Toronto's Pride events would grow and evolve with time — but it was not until 1991 that the city officially proclaimed a Pride Day.

In 1981, Toronto's Pride Day corresponded with the Stonewall anniversary. It also came a few months after the now-infamous police raids on city bathhouses — one of the largest mass arrests in Canada's history, and an event for which Toronto police would formally apologize 35 years later.

But the impact of Stonewall has not been forgotten in Toronto, with its 50th anniversary serving as the theme for the city's Pride in 2019.

Revellers turn out to support LGBTQ rights during the Pride march in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 25, 2023.
A faraway view of a long stretch of crowd at Toronto's Pride march in June of 2023. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

Toronto's marquee Pride events are today held in June — the trans march (June 28 this year), the dyke march (June 29) and the headlining Pride parade (June 30) included.

Regina also celebrates Pride this month. Its first parade was held in June 1990, when local police refused to issue permits for it. But it still went ahead, with participants pushing forward progress nonetheless.

Winnipeg today celebrates Pride starting at the end of May and into the first weekend of June, when its local parade is held.

And July?

Several major cities in Atlantic Canada have major Pride events scheduled in July — with parades in the provincial capitals Halifax, Fredericton and St. John's during the height of the summer. Ditto for the Pride PEI Festival and its own parade.

Participants carry a large pride flag while walking the 11th annual Fredericton Pride parade in Fredericton, New Brunswick on Sunday July 23, 2023. Fredericton city hall is in the background.
Participants carry a large pride flag while walking the 11th annual Fredericton Pride parade in Fredericton, N.B., on July 2023. Fredericton city hall is in the background. (Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press)

In the New Brunswick capital, Fierté Fredericton Pride "has been celebrated in either July or August over the years," said Jenna Lyn Albert, its interim chair, in an email to CBC News.

They said the organization has — in recent times that Albert has been there — collaborated with other provincial Pride festivals to prevent overlap.

"That way we can all support one another!" said Albert.

On P.E.I., the first-ever Pride March occurred on July 16, 1994. Thirty years later, "this date has developed into what is now a 10-day festival around that specific date," said Cameron Cassidy of Pride PEI.

Attendees of the 2023 St. John's Pride Parade. Despite the humid summer heat, hundreds marched in the parade on Sunday (7/23/2023)
A snapshot from the St. John's Pride parade in July of last year. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Eddy St. Coeur of St. John's Pride says "the July date for our Pride festival is steeped in local lore."

The July weather is good, but there are other also other factors.

Community elders told St. Coeur that an annual beach fire, held in July, was an anchor for early events. The parade tended to follow that celebration. Teachers took part in early local Pride marches — which wasn't easy for them — and a July-based event would fall after the school year.

Vancouver Pride has unfolded in late July and early August in recent times.

Sheffield said that in the more distant past, Vancouver and other major Canadian cities had tended to celebrate Pride during August, to mark the anniversary of the We Demand protest — more on that below.

August and the We Demand story

Ottawa's Capital Pride current events take place in August — though that hasn't always been the case.

Ottawa Firefighters blow bubbles from the ladder of a fire truck during the Capital Pride Parade in Ottawa, on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023.
Ottawa firefighters blow bubbles from the ladder of a fire truck during the Capital Pride Parade in Ottawa last year. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

"A few different organizations have hosted Pride celebrations in the Ottawa-Gatineau area over the years. The first Pride event, a picnic at Strathcona Park in Ottawa, was held in June, marking decriminalization in Canada as well as the Stonewall riots in New York City," Callie Metler, the organization's executive director, said via email.

More recently, the festival has taken place at the end of August to mark the 1971 We Demand rally, Metler said.

Sheffield, the author and archivist, said the We Demand protest saw members of the community push back against discriminatory federal laws that persisted, even after Canada's omnibus legislation changes from two years earlier.

Community members felt those legislative changes didn't go far enough, and Sheffield said that prompted some to organize around 10 key demands.

"On August 28, 1971, group of about 100 people from Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto gathered at Parliament Hill to deliver these demands in person," said Sheffield.

Nearly 100 gay rights activists demonstrate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Aug. 28, 1971, marching past the Peace Tower carrying signs that read ÒCanada: True, North, Strong and GayÓ and ÒHomosexuals are Human Beings.
A photo from the day of the We Demand protest on Aug. 28, 1971. (Peter Bregg/The Canadian Press)

Sheffield said this has become known as "the first public gay liberation demonstration in Canada."

August also offers decent weather for big Pride events, which some organizers have said is helpful.

In Montreal, key Pride events have been held in August for over a decade, taking advantage of good weather and a timing that works for a city that always has a lot going on.

The Windsor-Essex Pride Fest, now in its 32nd year, includes events in the southwestern Ontario border city and the nearby Essex County. It's been hosting its Pride events in August for years.

And Hamilton's Pride festival takes place in August this year as well.

Why September?

Calgary Pride used to hold its parade in June, but moved it to September more than a decade ago.

Thousands showed up in support of Calgary's LGBTQ community during the city's annual Pride parade on Sunday.
Calgary's Pride parade has been held in the month of September for more than a decade. The photo above was taken during last year's event. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Why so late? More reliable weather, for one thing.

This year, Calgary's Pride parade is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 1.