City of Edmonton Gay and Lesbian Archives

Retrieved from City of Edmonton archives.


The Gay and Lesbian Archives of Edmonton was created to capture the history and the important records of various organizations created by and for the Gay and Lesbian community in Edmonton. An early organization, originating as a University of Alberta student and faculty group lobbying to change laws discriminating against homosexuals, was the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE), formed ca. 1971-72. GATE evolved from a quasi-University activist group to one more representative of the general gay community in Edmonton, emphasizing social services for the community. They were a resource centre, providing peer counselling services and speaker referrals, while continuing to advocate for gay civil rights. GATE lost its Societies Act registration in 1986, and regained that status on November 4, 1987, restarting under a new name: the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton (GLCCE). GLCCE continued in the role of an information/education centre and was an important social gathering space for Edmonton’s gay population, hosting dances, a coffee house and video nights.

In 2004, GLCCE was restructured and renamed the Pride Centre of Edmonton. Meanwhile, in 1984 the Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA) Society was formed as a representative group to organize the Gay and Lesbian Celebration Week of June 1984. In July of 1984 the Alberta Human Rights Commission made recommendations for changes to the Individual’s Rights Protection Act which included the listing of sexual orientation as a prohibited ground for discrimination in employment. GALA represented other member groups in the campaign to see those recommendations implemented; it was incorporated under the Alberta Societies Act in May of 1987 to promote awareness of the gay community and issues that affect them among the general public of Edmonton, especially as concerns the granting of civil rights to homosexuals. Both the civil rights work and the PRIDE festival planning expanded beyond the confines of GALA, and this work was eventually taken over by other organizing bodies. GALA’s final year of registration as a Society appears to be in 1994, and post-1994 GALA efforts were assumed by GLCCE and then the Edmonton Pride Centre.

The Edmonton Pride Festival Society was formed in 1999 as the official non-profit organization charged with managing the Pride Festival events. In response to the growing awareness of the devastation HIV and AIDS was having amongst the gay population world-wide, the AIDS Network of Edmonton Society was incorporated as a non-profit society in 1984. In 1999, the AIDS Network of Edmonton changed its name to HIV Edmonton.

Other organizations, represented in the GALA fonds, include the University of Alberta’s GALOC (Gays and Lesbians on Campus) group, and numerous social and cultural groups. The first openly gay club, CLUB 70, opened in late 1969, and was followed over the years by many other gay entertainment venues and social groups. The Imperial Sovereign Court of the Wild Rose, both an entertainment outlet and important charity fundraiser, was established in Edmonton in 1976 as part of an international Imperial Sovereign Court system. An early sports body for gays in Edmonton was the Edmonton Roughnecks Recreation Association established in 1980; the Vocal Minority Music Society formed in 1983; and the first Gay newspaper published in Edmonton, “Fine Print” started as a spin off from the Edmonton Roughnecks newsletter. The library established at GATE, transferred to GLCCE and then the Pride Centre, collected and subscribed to a number of publications of interest to Edmonton’s gay community. They also maintained clipping and article files, gathered brochures and pamphlets on numerous topics, kept directories, and other reference materials. The history of Edmonton’s GLBTQ community is rich and diverse, and well-reflected in the GALA fonds housed at the City of Edmonton Archives.

Many of the organizations described here had integrated memberships and occasionally shared office space. Councillor Michael Phair had membership and leadership roles in many of the organizations and preserved the records of those that ceased operations. After the demise of GATE the first and second donations were made to the City of Edmonton Archives by Councillor Phair. Four years later the successor organization, GLCCE donated more of the other organization’s records remaining in their possession as well as early records of the GLCCE. Between 2004 and 2007, Michael Phair donated five further accessions for the Gay and Lesbian Archives, including material related to Club 70, Pride awards, Times .10 issues; and GALA files kept in his personal office. Joe Achtemichuk donated materials from The Roost Nightclub in 2008, and in 2012 material that had been kept in a storage room of the Junction Bar and Eatery (with materials related to earlier clubs and businesses that shared that same address) was donated via Rob Browatzke. A final donation of a report was made in 2012 by Michael Phair.

The Gay and Lesbian Archives captures many aspects of Edmonton’s gay and lesbian population, ca. 1970 to the mid-2000s and the growth of organizations and groups to facilitate and serve them. The primary organizations represented in the fonds, and described as the first four series of the fonds are: the Gay Alliance Toward Equality (GATE), Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA), the AIDS Network of Edmonton Society, and the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton (GLCCE). Within each of these organizations, are administrative records including bylaws, constitution, meeting minutes and documents, financial statements, and correspondence, as well as any type of activity or committee records maintained by the said organization.

There is inter-relatedness to many of these organizations, and the boundaries between their activities and mandate can be hard to distinguish from one another. Series 5, as an example, is the Edmonton Pride Festival Society records, which had origins with both GALA and GLCCE but outgrew both organizations to form its own society in 1999, and is concerned with numerous on-going annual pride events organized for Edmonton. Other series in the fonds that have origins in earlier organizations include Series 9: Civil/Human Rights; Series 12: Organizations; and Series 13: Resources and References. Responsibilities for collecting in these series shifted as organizations and their committees closed and reopened under new names and structures, and so the decision was made to organize the records within separate series to better describe them and capture this evolution.

The remaining series in the fonds represents a way to organize the records to reflect what has already been donated, but also allow for expansion as further accruals are received.

Smaller series in the fonds include series 6, the University of Alberta Gay organizations; series 7: Sporting Associations; and Series 10, Youth Related Organizations and Resources. While relatively small yet in extent, there is the potential for growth within each of these series as new University-related groups, sporting organizations, and youth-focused associations relating to Edmonton’s GLBQT population form. Gay cultural and social organizations were also established in Edmonton, and two of the series in the fonds relate directly to these: Series 8 is records of the Vocal Minority Music Society which later became Edmonton Vocal Minority, and Series 11 contains records from some of the clubs and entertainment venues that operated in Edmonton. The connection between series is again obvious, as for example, the gay entertainment clubs often hosted events and activities as fundraisers for the Aids Network of Edmonton. Continued expansion in these series is also likely.

A final series was created to capture those files created by Michael Phair, a well-known Edmontonian and activist for the gay community of Edmonton. His name is connected with many of the groups represented in this fonds, and he was a prime mover behind the gathering and preserving of the Gay and Lesbian archive.

Series are as follows:

  • Series 1 – Gay Alliance Toward Equity (GATE)
  • Series 2 – Gay and Lesbian Awareness (GALA)
  • Series 3 – AIDS Network / HIV Edmonton
  • Series 4 – Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton (GLCCE) / Pride Centre of Edmonton
  • Series 5 – Edmonton Pride Festival Society / Pride Events
  • Series 6 – University of Alberta Gay Organizations
  • Series 7 – Sporting Associations
  • Series 8 – The Vocal Minority Music Society / Edmonton Vocal Minority
  • Series 9 – Civil / Human Rights
  • Series 10 – Youth Related Organizations / Resources
  • Series 11 – Clubs / Entertainment Venues
  • Series 12 – Organizations
  • Series 13 – Resources and References
  • Series 14 – Michael Phair records

This fonds was donated by Alan MacDonald in two parts in 1996. Another donation was made in 2000 by Ron Rowsell, representative of the executive of the Gay and Lesbian Community Centre of Edmonton. Michael Phair donated further accruals for the archive in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. Joe Achtemichuk donated records from the Roost Nightclub in 2008 and Rob Browatzke of Junction Bar and Eatery donated material in 2012. A final file of material for the GALA fonds was also received in 2012 from Michael Phair.

Safe Exit