Canada is one of ten countries in the world that recognize same-sex marriage. Montreal has one of the best established gay neighbourhoods in the world, whose main strip, Sainte-Catherine, is closed to traffic for the whole summer, enabling the entire street to become a party in the evenings.
This page will try to give a very brief outline of the gay community's history in the city and list some relevant events and services. That said, the writer of this page is a woman and isn't gay, so things may be missing or mistaken. If you think so, it would be kind to drop us a line and let us know what you think should be added or changed.
Montreal's contentment with its gay community hasn't always been a fact. Richard Burnett delves back three hundred years in search of records of how justice dealt with gay men, and it wasn't pretty. Gay men caught in the act were lucky if they were not executed. Nonetheless, sexuality will out, and it's clear that while there must always have been places where gay men could meet, the necessary secrecy of the day means that we'll never know many of the details. As for lesbians, their existence was probably more easily hidden in the vast convents of the era.
As in many cities, police in the 20th century had a history of harassing Montreal's gay subculture, which used to cluster socially around lower Stanley and nearby streets. A turning point came with some harsh raids on clubs there in 1977 that brought the community out in protest.
A consequence of this coup was a gradual shift in public opinion. In 1978, the Quebec government passed a bill that added sexual orientation to the provincial charter of human rights, making the province the first jurisdiction in North America to establish this. A pride parade followed in the summer of 1979.
However, another consequence of the raids and the repression was that the gay community decamped eastward, and began putting down roots on Ste-Catherine Street between Saint-Hubert and Papineau and the residential streets radiating north and south of it in the area that would come to be known as the Gay Village.
A brutal raid in 1990 on a Village party was probably the moment most Montrealers realized they had no reason to want the authorities to continue this kind of repression. The Gay Village has since been recognized as a distinct entity, the addition of permanent rainbow elements on the fašade of Beaudry metro station in 2000 being an institutional nod – although, interestingly, neither the official page for Beaudry nor Papineau stations mentions the Village.
The shift in public attitudes between a raid in 1990 and the decoration of a metro station with a permanent rainbow in 2000 suggests the trajectory of how things have gone in recent years, although complacency may be a little premature. The Village is still occasionally the site of individual acts of violence and at times the city seems complacent with its image as a somewhat rough area, a tendency some residents are beginning to do some work on.
Image + Nation 2012 dates to come
Gai Écoute 888-505-1010 or 514-866-0103
Centre communautaire des gais et lesbiennes de Montréal