Walk Leader: Mathew McClean
Text by: Rob Saunders
Photographs by: Rob Saunders
Our walk begins at Wellesley subway station. Mathew McClean, our Jane’s Walk Leader, is easily identified wearing a Moose Hat. Around 30 diverse participants begin a short walk through the village, the first stop being Glad Day Bookstore.
As independent bookstores close one by one, it’s peculiar to step into the oldest LGBT bookstore in the world in the heart of Toronto. Glad Day, the city’s first gay-centric bookstore was established in 1970, and has evolved into a cultural icon. With the closure of the Oscar Wilde Bookstore in New York City in 2009, the 35 year old Glad Day is the oldest surviving of the genre and the oldest bookstore of any kind in Toronto given the demise of the industry.
On the way to Pride House we pass Isabella Street, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and a sculptured garden with a memorial to those who lost their lives to AIDS. Names are scribed on a metal plaque denoting each year of the pandemic.
We discuss Operation Soap, the February 1981 police raid on four gay bathhouses in Toronto where 286 people were arrested. In contrast The War Measures Act, invoked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in October 1970, brought down the FLQ with 497 arrests. This arrest record held for over three decades until the Edmonton Oilers clinched the Western Conference in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Oilers lost the Series, but the bawdy-house raids evolved one of the largest Pride festivals in the world celebrating its 35th year in 2015.
Our walk ended on Church Street, but not before sharing some thoughts:
In 2001 Ontario became the third jurisdiction after Holland and Belgium to formalise same sex marriage. Canada emerged in 2005 as the fourth country in the world, first in the western hemisphere to legalise same sex marriage.
Shortly after our Jane’s Walk, Ireland hosted a referendum on same sex marriage which has profoundly altered the landscape. In a resounding YES vote, a “new country” was created. Ireland is a game changer. This historic vote has rekindled equality rights around the globe. Still, there are places where this is unthinkable today, as was the case in Dublin or Toronto not so long ago. Entire continents, a hundred countries, thousands of cities, and billions of inhabitants will in time ask the question, “Why empathise for the ‘minority’ in a society?” The late American actor, director, author and poet Leonard Nimoy has the last word as Spock, the alien Vulcan in Star Trek, proving that we can go where no one has gone before “because the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many.”