Ottawa LGBT History: Capital Pride

Ottawa gets it's first Pride event in 1986, when a small group of roughly 50 people gather in Strathcona Park for a picnic. Gabriella Goliger recalls going to the picnic, which had many colourful balloons with lesbian and gay gender symbols drawn on them. The picnics last for a few more years, being hosted in different parks, until a full fledged Lesbian and Gay Pride Week is organized from June 9 to 18, 1989.

Ottawa's first Pride Parade happens on Sun, June 18, 1989, starting at Somerset and Metcalfe, going west on Somerset to Bank Street, turning north on Bank to Laurier, turning east on Laurier to Elgin, then going south on Elgin to the Jack Purcell Centre at Gilmour. GO Info estimates that approximately 300 people walked. 

From then on, Pride becomes an annual tradition, growing in size as the community becomes more visible. The organization goes through several ups and downs, with varying financial success. It nearly collapses from massive debts in 1995. When Yvon Vaillant, Kevin Hatt and Marion Steele become involved in the festival, they slowly pay off the debts with a series of highly inventive solutions, including a successful Rainbow Party dance they hold at Lansdowne Park and a idea to create a fundraiser to buy an oversized rainbow flag that they can use to walk in the parade and raise money. The funds they raise from 'selling' square metres of the flag more than covers the cost of purchasing it, and the Rainbow Party becomes a popular annual tradition for many years.  

The festival gains an ambitious producer in Robin Duetta, who closes off Bank Street for a couple of years in some of the most memorable events of the history of the fesstival. Unfortunately, they are also among the most financially disasterous, and in 2004 the organization is massively in debt. Steele comes back along with several other capable organizers, and slowly the festival gets 'back on track' as its 2005 campaign theme declared. 

The festival changes its name from Pride of Ottawa-Gatineau to Capital Pride in 2008. 

In 2014, the festival goes through it's biggest financial crisis ever, with the board of directors and membership voting to delare bankruptcy with over $100,000 in debt. The history of the festival is now in question, just before it's 30th anniversary.

Tammy Dopson contacts a small group of known community leaders to ask them to help form a new festival with a plan for greater fiscal responsibility. The process draws criticism from some in the community for being seen as exclusionary, but the festival in 2015 proves to be a success, with a seperate community advisory community and a logistical team led by a paid festival producer. 

In 2017, the organization held several small community consultations, resulting in a decision to ask the police to refrain from wearing the uniforms and weapons in the parade as some in the community, notably people of colour, sex workers, queer homeless youth, etc, feel uncomfortable with uniformed police officers. The Police Chief, Charles Bordeleau, says he will ignore the request and walk in uniform regardless. 

Pride Parade Marshals

1989: Gabriela Goliger and Barry Deeprose
1990: Linda Wilson
1991: Diane Holmes, Linda Wilson
1992: David Hoe, Carmen Paquette
1993: Marion Dewar, Alex Munter
1994: Judy Girard, Diane Holmes, Denis Leblanc
1995: Elisabeth Arnold, Carroll Holland, David Pepper 
1996: Charles Hill and Deborah McIntosh
1997: Youth theme; Canterbury High School GSA
1998: Team Équipe
1999: PTY and SAGE Ottawa
2000: Colleen Baker, Barry Deeprose, Melanie Porter and John Purdie
2001: Kerry Beckett, Bruce Bursey, Larry Hill, Joanne Law
2002: Dennis and Diana Stimson
2003: Alex Munter
2004: Brian Gallant
2005: Ed Broadbent
2006: Diane Holmes. Flag Bearers: SAGE Ottawa
2007: Larry Hill
2008: Kevin Hatt
2009: Joanne Law
2010: Glenn Crawford
2011: Zelda Marshall
2012: T. Eileen Murphy
2013: Jay Koornstra. Community Builder: Mike Tattersall. International: Maurice Tomlinson. Lifetime: Amanda Ryan. Youth: Erica Bulter
2014: Helen Kennedy. Community Builders: Holly and Julia Wagg. International: Cason Crane. Lifetime: Murray Lavigne. Youth: Elliott Werhle
2015: Parade of Past Marshals. No new marshals named this year
2016: Charlie Lowthian-Rickert
2017: Candy Palmater

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Bank Street and Gladstone Avenue