1988 Pride March

1988, the Paper Bag March

picPhoto appears on the cover of the October, 1988 (#7) issue of WayvesMagazine. Photo by AnitaMartinez

In a context of no legal protections, but growing unrest about rampant prejudice and discrimination, Halifax’s gay and lesbian community organized its first Pride Week in 1988. On July 1, 1988, they held a Pride March; a protest march – no floats or corporate sponsors – protesting the lack of legal protection from discrimination, and protesting the all-too-common threat of homophobic violence. About 75 people marched, the first of the annual marches that came to be called Pride Marches.

"Friday, July 1, 1988: MARCH: Out of the Closet and into the Human Rights Act. Meet at the Common, corner of Quinpool & North Park St., 4:30pm"1.

Here's the program for Pride Week 1988.

The photo: this photo, by AnitaMartinez, appears on the cover of the October, 1988 (#7) issue of WayvesMagazine. There's a larger version, and discussion of it here

Partial list of people in the march: TumaYoung, RobinMetcalfe, SaraAvMaat, MaureenShebib, AnneBishop, AnitaMartinez, LeeAnneTeal?, FredWells?, HazenUsher, Julie, "TJ" EricSmith, JJLyon, RegGiles, MikeSangster, LynnMurphy, MichaelWeir, maybe KevinCrombie add your name here

1988 March Route
Route: Starting from Cogswell & North Park Streets, down Cogswell, right onto Brunswick St, right onto Spring Garden Road, ending at Victoria Park, where presumably speeches would be made, in front of the statue of Robbie Burns2

Speak Easy

RobinMetcalfe hosted the Speak Easy: Readings by Lesbian & Gay Writers held Wednesday, June 29, 1988 at Rumours, 8-10pm; 50+ people attended.

List of Readers: GlennWalton – screenplay NeilMcInnes? – 2 poems; CatherineHughes? – letter; JimMacSwain – sex story; AndreaCurry? – poetry etc; CatherineLambert? – prose & poetry; KentStetson – screenplay and poems; RobinMetcalfe – poems.

RobinMetcalfe's notes on the Speak Easy & route are on file here.

About The Paper Bags

Marchers wearing paper bags at this parade was one of the most powerful and memorable messages ever delivered by our community.


pic Video: ScottMacNeil, who was Rumours bar manager at the time, says that JimDeYoung had taped the community variety show that happened during this Pride celebration.

In 2012, ChrisAucoin created an exhibit of events from 1988. See 1988 History Exhibit.

May 28, 2017: CBC Radio's _Atlantic Voice_ episode, _Pride and Prejudice_. Angela Antle interviews EricSmith, AnneBishop, and MikeSangster about their experiences with the 1988 March, and how much the world has changed since then. The link is here: http://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/atlantic-voice/episode/12755461


AnneBishop writes: My memory was that the 1988 march was organized in part by LGRNS, which was chaired by me and Maureen Shebib at the time. I was one of the pre-march speakers. I remember walking down Agricola St with Jan and a group of friends to join the march discussing how many people would be too few. In other words, if there were only ten people, or a dozen, or whatever, would it be unsafe and look ridiculous? Should I use my speech as an opportunity to propose we go to a coffee shop, toast our effort and start planning for something bigger the next year? I remember my relief when we rounded the final bend and saw +-150 people milling about waiting for the march to start. Whew!

MikeSangster writes: I was one of the marchers who wore a paper bag over our heads as we marched on that Pride March. Alan marched but did not wear a bag. We were wearing paper bags over our head to demonstrate that we needed to hide our faces from everyone because we could, at that time, not only lose our jobs but also our housing, our family connections and friendships etc. We had to be secretive and feared persecution from not only the authorities but the population in general. 4

TumaYoung writes: Michael Weir who took an big risk marching as he was an american and had to marry a lesbian to be allowed to stay in Canada. There were some folks from Gays and Lesbians at Dal; that's how I learned about the march. I remember being scared that someone would attack us that I kept trying to be in the middle."

This page is about one of the PrideCelebrations


1. June calendar, page 7, GAEZETTE, June 1988 (#5)
4. July 10, 2016 Pers Corr.