The City of Calgary for the longest time did not like Pride Parades. One of the earliest confrontations between City Hall and the gay community happened in 1980. Gay Information & Resources Calgary (GIRC) was hosting a national gay rights conference at the University of Calgary. These conferences in the 70s and 80s moved around the country as the gay rights movement gathered a critical collective mass. Calgary’s conference was the 8th annual event: at each conference, the organizers would stage a human rights parade.
However, City of Calgary Police Chief, Brian Sawyer, refused the permit for the parade citing that “confrontation was a possibility.” Organizers decided to march anyway.
40 of the conference delegates, marched silently for half an hour, ending at City Hall with their placards of protest. Bob Harris, a member of the GIRC collective, and conference chair, spoke at the protest. He said, “We do know how to conduct ourselves – we’re not running through the streets screaming and yelling.”
The delegates later moved to a rally in Centenary Park on St. George’s Island. One of the speakers at the rally was Alberta Federation of Labor representative Ken Neal who expressed his disappointment that the parade permit was denied. “Gays are constantly harassed,” he said, “we object to such unfair and discriminatory treatment.”
Protests, rallies and marches were springing up all over North America in this period and became an important platform for the gay rights movement, creating visibility for a relatively unknown community. GIRC was located in the Old Y Centre for Community Organizations; Calgary Outlink today is a direct descendent of that 70’s incorporated non-profit society.