Demonstrations — Toronto Stands Up For Civil Rights

photo of man and women

Title: An assistant nurse wins her civil rights case against a Toronto dance club in 1963.

Photographer: Frank Lennon

Date: March, 1963

Context: Gloria Simpson, accompanied by her friend Peter Ziegler, was barred from entering Toronto’s Deutches Tanz Lokal dance club on the second floor above the El Mocambo tavern in 1963. The Ontario Human Rights Commission settled the case in her favour and the dance club’s management invited her to return.

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photo of woman talking with a megaphone

Title: Jackie Henderson addresses a crowd of 500 at a Women’s Liberation rally at Nathan Phillips Square.

Photographer: Reg. Innell

Date: August 26, 1970

Context: This rally at Nathan Phillips Square was one of a series of demonstrations by women supporting the goals of the Women’s Liberation Movement that took place across North America on August 26, 1970. The Toronto Star reported that women in New York, led by prominent feminist Betty Frieden, marched to New York’s Bryant Square where they burned underwear, birth control pills and sex manuals in trash cans. New York mothers left babies at city hall demanding child care centers. At the time, women belonging to the Women’s Liberation movement were seen by many Canadians as a radical group of bra-burners. Although the movement’s demands for equal employment opportunities with men, equal pay for work of equal value, universal child care, and freedom of choice on abortion are now accepted by the majority in Canadian society, many Canadians considered them radical concepts in the 1970s.

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In the 1960s Torontonians sympathized with the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King in the United States. These images document some of the protests relating to the civil rights of visible minorities, gays, and women from the 1960s to the 1990s as Toronto citizens grappled with racism and injustice in their own city.

photo of police tossing man

Title: In front of the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue, Toronto police toss students demonstrating in support of the civil rights workers in Alabama to the curb of the street.

Photographer: Gerry Barker

Date: March 16, 1965

Context: In the early 1960s racial tension was high in Birmingham Alabama as a non-violent direct action campaign by black leaders such as Martin Luther King addressed the issues of racism in that city. The civil rights movement in the United States received much press in Toronto and Toronto citizens showed their support with their own protests.

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photo of nuns

Title: Nuns demonstrate their solidarity with Martin Luther King in 1965.

Photographer: Dick Darrell

Date: March 16, 1965

Context: 300 clergy march down Queen Street in Toronto to the U.S. consulate in support of Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement.

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photo of man holding sign

Title: Eric Schweig demonstrates about the lack of justice for Native women.

Photographer: Patti Gower

Date: January 23, 1989

Context: Joseph Constanineau was charged with committing an indignity to the body of a woman from the Whitefish reserve after she died in a hotel room in Toronto. The short sentence he received enraged the Native community leading Eric Schweig, a member of the Native Peoples Review Committee, to demonstrate about the lack of justice in Toronto for Native women.

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photo of man wearing placard - talking to police officer

Title: A lone Toronto protestor speaks with a police officer outside the court during the Buddy Evans inquest.

Photographer: Jeff Goode

Date: August 20, 1979

Context: Twenty-four year old Buddy Evans, a black man, was shot and killed by a Toronto police officer outside a nightclub on King Street West in 1978. A year later in 1979 Albert Johnson, also black, was shot in his apartment by police. In both cases the exoneration of the Toronto police officers who shot the men raised racial tensions in the city. Although this photo shows a sole protestor, several demonstrations of thousands of people took place in Toronto demonstrating against racism and police brutality in Metro’s police force.

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photo of man holding a sign - talking with a woman

Title: A man holding a “God Loves Gays” placard debates with a church-goer outside St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.

Photographer: Jim Rankin

Date: June 5, 1994

Context: In 1994 priests from the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, led by Archbishop Aloysius Ambrozic, campaigned against Bill 167 which would give same sex couples benefits similar to those of common-law heterosexual couples. The bill was defeated in the Ontario Legislature.

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