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- Mackenzie and York Steps
- (1991) – The year when, in response to violence against gays, community members and the police formed the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans committee (GLBT) to address hate crimes against the queer community.
What happened here?
On August 21, 1989, Alain Brosseau, was assaulted and thrown to his death off the nearby Alexandra bridge by a group of gay-bashing teenagers. His death led to an outcry and eventually forced the Ottawa Police to take hate crimes against gays more seriously.
As you admire the peaceful Park before you, know that between the 1960s and 1980s, Major’s Hill Park was both a site of gay love and one of anti-gay violence.
Quiet, discreet, and close to queer-friendly locations within Ottawa’s downtown core, Major Hill’s Park was an important gay cruising spot in Ottawa during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.
Its location and landscaping provided a sense of privacy at a time where 2SLGBTQIA+ individuals risked social stigma, physical harm, and persecution at work.
Overlooking the river, the park offers a clear view of Parliament Hill, where activists organized the We Demand Protest of 1971. Held in the pouring rain, the protest drew attention to police harassment and discrimination, and is seen as a landmark event in the history of Canada’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community.
As peaceful as it seemed, Major’s Hill Park held many risks. Marginalized individuals, including those cruising or engaging in sex work, were often targeted in violent attacks. Several men were murdered in the late 1980s including Martin Mallon, Peter Vainola and John Richard Miller.
On the night of August 21-22, 1989, a Chateau Laurier waiter, Alain Brosseau, was misidentified as gay and thrown from Alexandra Bridge. Two years after his death, the Ottawa police formed Canada’s first hate crimes unit.