1984-85: Gay Activists Campaign Against Discrimination in Manitoba

Article detailing the campaign to add sexual orientation to discrimination legislation.

Submitted by Reddebrek on January 25, 2017

In the 1980’s, gay activists made their stand against sexual orientation discrimination in Manitoba. At this point in time, the members of the LGBTQ* were asking the Manitoba NDP government to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination under the existing Manitoba Human Rights Act.

In July 1984, four men from the group Winnipeg Gay Media Collective staged a demonstration at the Canadian Human Rights Commission Office in Winnipeg. The four men performed a sit-in at the office to protest the lack of pressure on the Federal Government by the Commissioner to amend the existing Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The four men, Ken Steffanson, Ken Boyce, David Shoemaker and Chuck Williams sat in the Commission office holding signs over their faces reading “If we show our faces we could lose our jobs.” The length of the sit-in is unknown.

A year later, long time gay rights activist Richard North found it was time to add pressure on the government and create public awareness of the human rights issue within the LGBTQ* community. On 8 March 1985, North embarked on a 59-day hunger strike to pressure the provincial NDP government to prohibit sexual orientation discrimination under the human rights legislation in Manitoba. During his fast, North would appear at the Legislature to deliver open letters to the attorney general’s office and the NDP caucus chair. Ultimately, North ended his hunger strike because he was experiencing unexpected vision problems. The Manitoba NDP government had not yet made any changes to the existing legislation.

Shortly after North’s hunger strike ended, the Lobby for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (LISO) in Manitoba began its lobbying campaign by adding emphasis on the fact that the human rights act was not broad enough to provide protection from different forms of discrimination. The LISO argued that the existing Human Rights Act was unconstitutional based on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, the government was prompted to introduce Bill 47, creating the new human rights code that referenced the principles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This new legislation included that sexual orientation was a prohibited ground of discrimination. Victory occurred in July 1987 when the Manitoba Human Rights Act was replaced with the Manitoba Human Rights Code.

On 2 August 1987, approximately 250 people attended the first annual Pride Parade which was held to celebrate the inclusion of gay rights in the Manitoba Human Rights Code.


Canadian Human Rights Commission Sit-In. (1984, July ??). Retrieved March 26, 2013, from University of Manitoba Digital Archives: http://digitalcollections.lib.umanitoba.ca/fedora/repository/uofm:383
Koymasky, A., & Koymasky, M. (2004, December 20). Biographies: Richard North. Retrieved March 24, 2013, from The Living Room: http://andrejkoymasky.com/liv/fam/bion1/north01.html

Manitoba Gay and Lesbian Archives- Gay Rights. (n.d.). Retrieved March 25, 2013, from University of Manitoba Libraries: http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/digital/gay_lesbian/gay_rights.html

Pride Winnipeg. (2012, May 22). Retrieved March 27, 2013, from Pride Winnipeg: http://www.pridewinnipeg.com/news/2012/05/chris-vogel-and-richard-north-lead-this-year%E2%80%99s-pride-parade/

Scott. (2012, August 29). Richard North. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from Talking Radical: http://talkingradical.ca/2012/08/29/richard-north/

United Church of Winnipeg. (n.d.). Welcoming Congregation. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Winnipeg: http://www.uuwinnipeg.mb.ca/welcoming

(2002). Between Queer and Mainstream. In T. Warner, Never Going Back: A History of Queer Activism in Canada (pp. 200-202). Toronto: Universtiy of Toronto Press.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy:

Amanda Pratt, 03/04/2013

Published for the Global Nonviolent Action Database