My name is Hamish Copley. This site began as a side-project to a novel I was writing. As I did historical research, I decided I wanted a place to put up information that I discovered along the way. That’s how the idea for a historical website first came about.
At first I thought I’d only be popularizing the work of professional historians — my background is in literature, not history. As I began to delve into this history, I realized that very few LGBT histories of Canada stretch back to before 1950, virtually none to before the 20th century. What little there is before that (most around New France) was so riddled with errors when compared with the primary sources that I was astonished it could pass peer review.
This bothered me, because I’ve always believed that history is crucial to our understanding of the world. It’s my belief that recovering history is crucial for community-building. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans history tends to get forgotten in any country, and Canadians of any stripe are often dangerously ignorant of their own history, so in this country our history gets forgotten twice. The brief and mangled histories that predated the twentieth century are not sufficient to help us understand who we are.
That’s why I went to the archives, and the electronic resources. What’s here is a combination of my own research, plus the research of those few souls who’ve made a foray into the forgotten places of our past.
I intend to use this space sometimes for political information, too — letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, etc.
I will try to update every two months. My last update was July 1, 2016.
Montreal was founded in 1642, under the name of Ville-Marie. Six years later had its first trial — the first trial in all of what would later be Canada — for homosexuality.
A drummer with the French army was sent to court in Quebec City for having sex with another man. History does not record either the drummer’s name nor his partner’s, but since his partner wasn’t brought to trial, he is believed by some to have been First Nations.
The Header Image
Left-to-right, the three images are:
- An 1813 map of York — modern-day Toronto — that shows, along with the rest of the city,”Molly Wood’s Bush.” This is the core of Canada’s oldest gay neighbourhood, now known as “Church and Wellesley.”
- An 1886 article in La Presse, entitled “The Noctural Association,” detailing with horror the cruising ground behind city hall in Montreal.
It’s one of the first newspaper moral crusades against homosexuality.
- A 1923 picture of Cadieux Street. At the time this was taken, Cadieux (now called Bullion) was at the heart of the Red Light District, the largest neighbourhood for homosexuals and prostitutes in Montreal.