Yvon Vaillant

Yvon A. Vaillant Yvon was born on Feb. 12th 1947 in the rural community of Ste-Cécile de Masham, now called La Pêche, close to Lac Phillippe and Wakefield. He lived there until he was thirteen years old and then went to a boarding school run by ''Les Frères Marianistes'' in St-Anselme the Dorchester (70 km past Québec city) the parish priest and his mother thinking that he may have the ''vocation'' to become a brother. In that environment he discovered his affinity for members of the same sex, without having any sexual contact to pursue his inclination. What a reprehensible dilemma in those days!!! especially if you have to deal with a mother and a family very much into Catholicism. At age 17, returning to that college from a trip back home the car he was riding in was involved in a critical accident that changed his entire life. His neck was broken, he was unconscious for about three days, and had a near death experience. After approximately nine months in the Lévis General Hospital, across the St-Lawrence River from Québec city, he was able to return home and complete his teacher's college in Hull. It is during that time, now a young man of eighteen that he had his first sexual homosexual contact with a classmate.

Upon graduating he taught French as a second language at Blossom Park public school, then became a French language teacher for the Language Bureau of the Government of Canada. He rapidly progressed in the Public Service from teaching to Personnel Administration. He participated in several special career assignment programs in the Public Service and was posted through Inter-Change Canada, as VP of Human Resources for the opening of the Ottawa General Hospital on Smyth Road. He lived a quiet gay life, out of the main gay stream community, sharing his life with a few other partners. He left the public service for a period of seven-years when he ran his own company, The National Center for Health Promotion, which brought him to establish himself in Montréal in order to develop the market for his products. Unfortunately, upon a severe down turn in the economy and changes in public health policies, he had to close that business and he moved to Ottawa in 1990 and worked again in the Public Service as a Principal Consultant and Project manager. Having had the opportunity, in Montréal, to become much more open about his sexuality and his community, he joined several organizations in Ottawa.

He started to attend country line dances at an old school on Main Avenue. Soon he talked with other line dancers and was instrumental in forming the well-known country line dancing group, the Bytown Boots. The group grew quickly and ended up having two practice nights at the Jack Purcell Community Centre, with numbers of attendees reaching at times close to 125 members. He was in charge of organizing special events for the group and organized with the team several “Ho-Downs” that were attended by other country line dancing groups in Canada and the USA. He also organized dancing events in other cities and was instrumental in assisting Montréal and Québec city, in starting their own gay line dancing groups. The group used to gather each Thursday night after practice at Centretown Pub. It is in that bar that he also became familiar with the Ottawa Knights.

Being a leatherman himself, something that he had embraced during his three-and-a-half years living in Montréal, Yvon applied for membership in the Ottawa Knights and became a member. The club had had a Mr. Leather Ottawa-Hull contest the year before he joined but no one was prepared to continue the event. With the assistance of another leather brother, Yvon was quick to re-launched it in 1991. The Mr. Leather Ottawa-Hull weekend and contest grew to become one of the best attended leather events in Canada. He was master of ceremonies for three years, then was co-host and finally in 1996 he passed the torch to others in the club. The contest took place for more than 26 years in different venues, from the basement of the Glebe Community Center, to Barrymore’s Vaudeville Theatre, and then to the St.-Brigid’s Centre for the Arts and has taken place for the past two years at the Montgomery Legion.

In early 1996, articles in Capital Xtra, claimed that the Pride celebrations were probably not going to happen that year. The group running the event had debts in the range of $8,000 and was facing much criticism and a legal battle with the mayor of the city of Ottawa, Jacqueline Holtzman, over her refusal to sign a proclamation for Pride Week. A community meeting had been called, to be facilitated by then-counsellor Alex Munter. Yvon attended the meeting. His observation after all that was said was that the community needed a Project Manager, an organizational charter and structure and a strong team of dedicated volunteers to organize the event. Elections of a board took place and Yvon was elected Chair. From mid-February to the time of the event which took place in June of that year, the newly formed team worked incessantly under Yvon's chairmanship and,

  • was able to eradicate the debt that was in the book by negotiating with the NCC and showing a strong project management and financial plan
  • worked on a By-Laws for the organization
  • recruited several volunteers and trained them during a two week-ends long training session aimed at designing and sharing a Vision and a Mission for the organization, and creating a strong team guided by shared team principles
  • establish an organizational chart and a reporting structure with a Board of Directors and an Operations committee with coordinators job descriptions
  • created an Outreach and Communications position to entice the participation of other cities and all community groups in the celebrations
  • launched a contest for the creation of a Pride 1996 logo which was used to produce buttons, pins, and throughout all the publicity materials. It also served to produce window decals which were sold to supportive businesses in Ottawa for them to display and indicate their support and openness to the LGBTQ community
  • got the drag queen and transsexual communities involved in doing fund raisers and in selling Pride products as “cigarettes girls” in the various bars over the weekends leading up to Pride Week
  • dealt with the municipality of Ottawa and the Mayor to finally resolve the issue of the proclamation for Pride week. Got the Pride Week Proclamation established and the Pride flag to be raised for the first time in front of the then Ottawa City Hall, on Sussex Drive.
  • had a full week of various events geared at the interests of various community populations the week leading up to Pride Day
  • produced, by selling advertising space, a “Pride Guide” and Pride posters which were distributed, not only in the city of Ottawa, but in other cities as well
  • got an agreement with all the gay-venues in the city to participate in a huge community party called the “Rainbow Party” which took place at Lansdowne Park the Saturday night before the parade
  • Secured the grounds in front of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton to hold the after-parade picnic and Pride Show
  • Instituted a tendering process for the beer tent and the food vendors for the picnic grounds
  • End up with a respectable profit margin to enable planning more activities the following year
  • He was re-elected chair for the 1997-1998 celebrations

In 1997 and 1998,

  • Pride joined the National Capital Commission Festival Network, becoming a recognized Festival in Ottawa
  • Pride joined Inter-Pride, the International organization representing all Pride organizations in the world and responsible for World Pride. Yvon was co-chair of Region Seven with Suzanne Girard from Divers Cité in Montréal
  • secured a grant to the Pride Week Festival from the City of Ottawa
  • negotiated an office lease in the same building that was housing Pink Triangle Services on Bank Street. Worked with Human Resources Canada to get 4 funded positions to work in the Pride office in various capacities.
  • produced a gigantic Pride flag (30' x 60') as a fundraiser for the community. The flag was unfurled at an Ottawa Gay Men's Chorus Pride event and then was proudly carried by volunteers in the Pride parades in Montreal, in Toronto and in Ottawa, with people throwing in their donations into the flag as it went down the parade route. It was loaned to other Pride and LGBTQ organizations in Canada for their use and to build a sense of National Pride.
  • each year organized a Pride Launch Party attended by the community and political leaders at which the yearly logo was unveiled and the yearly fundraising campaign officially started
  • obtained proclamations for Pride week from the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and had the Pride flag raised in front of the RMOC building
  • worked with the Ottawa Police department and had the department unfurled a Pride flag in their building on Elgin Street for Pride Week
  • got the collaboration of the National Arts Centre to feature special Pride events during the week leading up to Pride Day
  • obtained a signed letter from the Prime Minister of the time, Jean Chrétien, proclaiming the diversity of our community and expressing his support for all the Pride Committees in the various cities of Canada
  • in 1997, the Pride parade went around Parliament Hill and passed under the Peace Tower, with the huge Pride Flag resting on the steps of Parliament while the parade went by
  • created a "Kid's Can" safe space for young ones to be entertained during the Pride Picnic while their parents took part in some activities in the Parade or on the grounds
  • held the second Rainbow Party at Lansdowne Park
  • had a renowned group of four gay a Capella singers, named “Men Out Loud” as star performers at the 1997 picnic show
  • record numbers of community groups and attendees at the Parade for both years
  • in 1998, convinced the City of Ottawa, working with Diane Holmes, to paint a pink line on the route of the Pride Parade a few weeks before the event as a publicity stunt
  • planted a tree on the grounds of the Jack Purcell Community Centre following the Pride fundraising campaign “Pride for all Seasons” which took place after the famously destructive Ice Storm of 1998
  • approached the Bank Street Business Improvement Area association to have it install Pride banners on part of Bank Street in the “Gay Village”. The idea then was frowned upon by the Chair of Bank Street BIA. It is now a dream come true under the leadership of Glenn Crawford
  • record numbers of community groups and attendees at the Parade
  • left the Chairmanship of the Pride organization with approximately $ 42,000 in the bank, the best financial achievement in the history of the Pride Festival 

While serving as Past-Chair of the Pride organization in 1999, Yvon also joined the community-initiated Ottawa-Carleton Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Wellness Project, Working Towards Increasing LGBT Wellness: A Community Challenge. Under the leadership of Bruce Bursey, this innovative, ground breaking work completed the first wellness needs assessment of a LGBT community in Canada. From that organization, the idea of a community centre for the LGBT community—a place to call our own—was initiated. The community had progressed so much and so fast in a few years that the committee organized for its inception concluded that an LGBT community centre was no longer a priority need.

For his contribution to the GLBTQ community, Yvon received a community recognition award from Capital Xtra.

Yvon met his present spouse from Brazil, on line. They married in Ottawa in September, soon after marriage of people from the same gender was recognized in Canada, 2005 and they are now both retired and live in Brazil. He just recently became a naturalized Brazilian and has his permanent residence in Feira de Santana and enjoys a summer home on Itaparica Island in front of the historical city of Salvador.