Nancy Nicol

Stand Together

© 2002 Intervention Video Inc. (124 min., DVD)
Directed and Produced by Nancy Nicol


"There's nothing better than a good video to explain how a political issue unfolded and how ordinary people undertook extraordinary activities to find legitimacy for their point of view. Nancy Nicol has created a powerful and engaging work on how the gay and lesbian communities in Ontario struggled successfully to gain legitimacy. She tells the story in a way that speaks to people far beyond these communities, offering others encouragement and hope in the challenge of political engagement."

John Sewell, author, former mayor of Toronto

Stand Together is a documentary on the lesbian and gay liberation movement in Canada between 1967 and 1987 focusing on the human rights amendment campaign in Ontario. It draws together a rich body of documents, images and rarely seen archival footage with dramatizations and interviews, to bring to life a moving legacy. Stand Together, is a case study of a human and civil rights movement, a story of justice denied and victories won, outrage and humour, celebration and humanity.

Stand Together is divided into the following chapters to facilitate educational viewing.

Chapter 1: Men in the Shadows
From RCMP investigations into 'suspected homosexuals' to the first demonstration by lesbians and gay men in Canada.

Stand Together begins with an examination of the National Security Campaigns in the 1960s when the RCMP investigated thousands of lesbians and gays working in the public service, including the now notorious 'fruit machine' employed by the RCMP to identify homosexuals. Documents obtained under the freedom of information act detail investigations by the RCMP into public service jobs as well as investigations into early gay liberation organizations. In August 1971, the first demonstration by gay men and lesbians was held with simultaneous actions in Vancouver and Ottawa. Activists presented a list of 10 demands most of which would be achieved over some 35 years.

Chapter 2: Out of the Closet
Politics and activism of Gay Liberation during the 1970s.

After the Criminal Code Amendment that decriminalized homosexual acts between two consenting adults came into effect in 1969, Gay Liberation organizations sprang up across the country. The documentary examines the activities and politics of Gay Liberation and the changing societal attitudes towards homosexuality in the 70's and 80's including rarely seen footage of organized gay bashing on Halloween on Yonge Street in Toronto, and 'zaps' organized by gay liberationists.

Chapter 3: Civil Rights
Spearheaded by cases (John Damien, Barbara Thornborrow and Doug Wilson) gay activists seek human and civil rights.

Stand Together traces the history of the Human Rights Amendment Campaign by the Coalition for Gay Rights of Ontario (CGRO) and spearheaded by individual cases of employment discrimination such as that of John Damien, a racing steward fired by the Ontario Racing Commission in 1975 because he was gay, Barbara Thornborrow, the first lesbian to publicly protest when she was dismissed from the Canadian armed forces because of being a lesbian, and Doug Wilson, a gay activist in Manitoba, dismissed from his teaching position because of his involvement in gay liberation. By June 1977, the Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended the inclusion of 'sexual orientation' in the Ontario Human Rights Code in a report entitled "Life Together", but the recommendation would languish for another decade.

Chapter 4:Backlash
Opposition to gay rights emerges from conservative forces, the religious right and the police.

By 1977, there was growing opposition to gay rights from conservative politicians, the religious right and escalating police raids against the emergent gay community. The murder of Emmanuel Jacques, a shoe shine boy in Toronto, sparks a homophobic backlash. Anita Bryant brings her 'Save the Children' campaign to tour Canada and build opposition to human rights recognition for gays and lesbians. Religious right groups such as Renaissance Canada, founded by Evangelical Minister, Ken Campbell; REAL Women of Canada and Positive Parents mobilize. The Body Politic, Canada's largest gay newspaper, is raided by police. George Hislop runs as the first openly gay candidate for alderman in Toronto, and mayoral candidate, John Sewell, publicly defends the Body Politics and calls for human rights for gays and lesbians, sparking a massive backlash. Both Hislop and Sewell loose.

Chapter 5: Operation Soap
Feb., 5th, 1981, Toronto police raid four gay steam-baths using the code name "operation soap"

In the largest mass arrest in Canadian history since the use of the War Measures Act in Quebec, 286 men were arrested and charged as 'found-ins' in raids on four gay steam baths. Through re-enactment and interviews with those who were arrested and charged at the time, Stand Together looks into the charges of human and civil rights abuse by police on the fateful night of Feb. 5th 1981.

Chapter 6: Gay Rage
An outraged community responds to the police raids

In massive and angry protest, on February 6th and 20th an outraged community responded with demonstrations protesting police brutality. Activists expose large numbers of undercover police who infiltrated the February 20th demonstration taking over the lead banner. The community mobilizes defense for those charged, demands a public enquiry into the raids, and renews their efforts to win human rights.

Chapter 7: The Human Rights Omission
December 1981, the Ontario Legislature defeats an amendment to include sexual orientation in human rights legislation

Gay activists protest the vote by chaining themselves to the railing of the visitors gallery.

Chapter 8: Our Time Has Come
December 2, 1986, the Ontario Legislature votes to include sexual orientation in the Ontario Human Rights Code.

After more than a decade of activism, the campaign for human rights for lesbians and gays won a major victory on December 2, 1986, when the Ontario legislature voted to include 'sexual orientations' as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the Ontario Human Right Code, making Ontario the 2nd province, after Quebec, to enshrine such protections.

Principal Credits

Directed & Produced by: Nancy Nicol

Editor: Ed Sinclair

Director of Photography: Robin Bain, Kim Derko and Carolyn Wong

Sound: Jonathan Thackray

Narration: Ed Yeatman, David Tomlinson and Lex Vaughn

Talent: Viv Moore, Lex Vaughn, Daniel Levinson and Matt Richardson

Funded by: The Canada Council for the Arts, The Ontario Arts Council, Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO), Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal, John Bailey Film and Video Completion Fund, Inside Out, Canadian Employment and Immigration Union; Lawrence Bennet and Harold Wu, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada; The Spa Excess.

Special Thanks to: The Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives