Councillor Ausma Malik (Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York) introduced a motion on May 11, 2023, seconded by Chris Moise (Ward 13, Toronto Centre), to recognize Hanlan's Point as a Historically Queer Space and ensure the City engages Toronto's queer community in Toronto Island Park planning. The motion, as follows, passed unanimously.
1. City Council recognize over eight decades of queer history, community, and the importance of placekeeping at Hanlan’s Point Beach and surrounding area.
2. City Council direct the General Manager, Parks, Forestry and Recreation in consultation with City Planning, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and other relevant City Divisions and Agencies to engage with and incorporate feedback from the community advocacy group Friends of Hanlan’s about the queer history of Hanlan’s Point Beach and surrounding areas, with the support of The 519 Community Centre and Pride Toronto where appropriate.
Councillor Malik shared on the floor of council why this motion was so important.
For eight continuous decades, and potentially longer, queer people in Toronto have used Hanlan’s Point Beach & surrounding area as a community hub and place of gathering, making it Canada and Toronto’s oldest surviving queer space, as well as one of the ten oldest surviving queer spaces around the globe.
Thanks to the commitment of many to collecting, uplifting and protecting 2SLGBTQ+ history in Toronto, we know through their efforts about the depth of importance of Hanlan’s Point Beach & surrounding area through many decades as a place of belonging, and safety – especially at a frightening time when queer people and life was criminalized in this country.
It was the site of Canada’s first ever 2SLGBTQ+ Pride celebration in 1971 – gathering then at Hanlan’s Point Beach & surrounding area to demand rights the 2SLGBTQ+ community were entitled to and unjustly denied.
It continued as a gathering place despite the mass arrests of queer people in the 1970s and during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.
We’ve heard from members of Toronto’s queer community about the importance of continuing to gather now in this vital space, recognizing the ways it has been shaped by 2SLGBTQ+ people before and with a commitment to enjoy, preserve and enhance it for future generations.
This is even more critical as our city has seen rising incidences of anti-queer violence and harassment, and queer spaces around the world face increased bigotry, hatred, and erasure.
Through this motion, we acknowledge Hanlan’s Point as a Historically Queer Space, celebrate the commitment of the queer community’s placekeeping at Hanlan’s Point over the last eight decades, and support efforts to preserve the queer history and unique culture at Hanlan’s Point.
I want to acknowledge the work that community advocacy group Friends of Hanlan’s has done to elevate concerns around queer history, community safety, and the rare ecology at Hanlan’s, as well as the work of our City staff across many divisions led by Parks Forestry and Recreation on the Toronto Island Park Master Plan.