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Looking back, moving forward

A timeline of Xtra Vancouver and the community we’ve chronicled

The final print edition of Xtra Vancouver, seen here hot off the press at Web ExPress, was printed on Feb 10, 2015, and began hitting the stands the next day (with a stand date of Feb 12). Credit: Ken Hickling

1971

Jearld Moldenhauer announces at a Toronto Gay Action meeting that all are welcome to join a group of people starting a gay liberation newspaper. Issue 1 of The Body Politic hits the streets around Halloween. On its cover is an image from the Aug 28 We Demand protest on Parliament Hill.

1973

Gay pride activities take place in Vancouver, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.

In Vancouver, the Gay Alliance Towards Equality organizes a picnic in Ceperley Park and an art exhibit in August for Gay Pride Week ’73.

1977

The Body Politic publishes Gerald Hannon’s “Men Loving Boys Loving Men.” Police raid the office and cart away 12 boxes of material (manuscripts, subscription lists, et cetera).

1978

On Jan 5, the officers of Pink Triangle Press (PTP) — Ed Jackson, Gerald Hannon and Ken Popert — are charged with use of the mails for transmitting indecent, immoral or scurrilous literature.

1979

The PTP officers are found not guilty, but Ontario’s attorney general appeals.

More than 700 people attend a picnic in Mission for Gay Unity Week in the Lower Mainland.

1981

On Feb 5, Toronto police raid four gay bathhouses simultaneously, arresting more than 300 men. Thousands of gay men and lesbians protest.

A story in the October issue of The Body Politic, “Gay Cancer? Or Mass Media Scare?” begins PTP’s coverage of HIV/AIDS.

Vancouver mayor (and future BC premier) Mike Harcourt proclaims Aug 1 to 7 Gay Unity Week. The Vancouver Sun estimates that 1,500 people attend the first Gay Unity parade, which runs through the West End.

1983

The Body Politic’s two acquittals in the “Men Loving Boys Loving Men” case are finally allowed to stand. There are no more appeals.

1984

In January, PTP gives birth to a four-page bar rag called Xtra. Intended as a promotional tool for The Body Politic, as well as a way to reach more people (and a different audience) than TBP ever could, Xtra soon outstrips its parent in advertising revenues and, eventually, in circulation.

1986

Canada Customs seizes 78 titles headed for Little Sister’s Bookstore. Community members and free-speech advocates demonstrate in front of then-Vancouver Centre MP Pat Carney’s office.

In November, The Body Politic celebrates its 15th birthday, but the collective becomes concerned about its financial health. The collective and staff decide to suspend publication of TBP and keep PTP alive by focusing on Xtra.

1987

Someone throws a bomb into the stairwell leading up to Little Sister’s from its Thurlow Street entrance. No one is injured.

1988

As Little Sister’s prepares to take Canada Customs to court over its continued seizure of gay books, someone throws another bomb, this time through the back door of its downstairs neighbour, Thurlow’s Restaurant. Broken glass showers the diners, but no one is seriously hurt.

1990

Vancouver hosts the third annual Gay Games, bringing the community together like never before. The flood of 15,000 openly gay and lesbian visitors from around the world gives many people the courage to come out publicly and launches countless new community groups.

PTP enters the world of audiotext (telepersonal chatlines), eventually creating Xtra’s Talking Classifieds and Cruiseline.

1992

Sexual orientation is added to the BC Human Rights Code.

Another bomb explodes in the stairwell leading up to Little Sister’s. No one is injured, but considerable damage is done. No one is ever arrested.

1993

Xtra West begins publishing in Vancouver in July.

1996

The BC Supreme Court rules that Canada Customs discriminated against Little Sister’s and enforced the law with “arbitrariness, inconsistency and just plain foolishness.” However, the court upholds Customs’ power to seize material.

1997

Surrey teacher James Chamberlain asks his school board for permission to use gay-friendly storybooks in class. The Surrey school board refuses, citing parents’ concerns, launching a battle that will span six years and three levels of court and challenge gay invisibility in school curriculum.

1998

Xtra.ca goes live, initially covering Toronto only.

1999

In September, PTP takes its first tentative steps into interactive web content. Squirtpersonals.com gets its first hit.

2000

The Supreme Court of Canada agrees that Little Sister’s suffered “excessive and unnecessary prejudice.” The court orders Canada Customs to stop targeting the gay bookstore but does not strike down Customs’ authority to seize materials deemed obscene at the border.

PTP launches squirt.org, a site that allows gay men to swap cruising tips and tricks.

2001

Aaron Webster is brutally beaten and left to die at the entrance to Stanley Park’s gay cruising trails on Nov 17. Approximately 2,000 mourners march down Davie Street the next day to remember Webster and demand an end to gaybashings. Xtra West covers the subsequent push for police accountability, anti-homophobia programs in schools, and the apprehension of Webster’s killers.

2002

Police raid Calgary gay bathhouse Goliaths. Xtra West stops the presses and sends a reporter to Calgary to create a special supplement. Prosecutors stay the charges three years later, after a survey shows Calgarians tolerate gay bathhouses.

In December, the Supreme Court of Canada orders the Surrey school board to reconsider its ban on three gay-friendly books. “Tolerance is always age-appropriate,” Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin rules.

PTP produces the first season of gay travel show Bump! It airs on PrideVision, a Canadian digital specialty television channel.

2003

In February, after relentless coverage in Xtra West, police finally arrest a youth in connection with Aaron Webster’s death. Eight months later, police arrest three of his friends.

The first youth pleads guilty. Judge Valmond Romilly calls it a hate crime.

On July 8, the BC Court of Appeal orders the province to begin issuing marriage licences immediately to same-sex couples. (Ontario beat BC by a month. The rest of Canada lags.)

PTP joins a consortium of investors in the purchase of PrideVision. The channel is rebranded as OUTtv. The press will eventually build an almost 25-percent stake in the enterprise.

2004

BC Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries convicts Ryan Cran of manslaughter in the Aaron Webster case but acquits Danny Rao for lack of evidence. Cran gets six years in prison, but Humphries doesn’t call it a hate crime. Outraged community members call for an inquiry into the prosecution’s handling of the case.

2005

Canada fully embraces same-sex marriage, with the passage of the Civil Marriage Act. PTP provides sponsorship for Canadians for Equal Marriage.

2006

PTP purchases long-running US gay publication The Guide, which will later be transformed into a travel-focused publication and transition from print entirely to web in 2010.

2008

Masthead magazine names The Body Politic among Canada’s 20 most influential magazines of all time.

PTP buys the assets of Toronto’s fab magazine (which it discontinued in 2013). The magazine’s final issue of the year features a cover and interview with Lady Gaga, who subsequently goes on to some success as a pop star.

2010

Xtra undergoes a redesign and drops the “West” from its name in Vancouver.

2012

Xtra undergoes another redesign, moving to a square format.

2013

As xtra.ca turns 15, PTP replaces it with a more contemporary and broader website, dailyxtra.com, to refresh and expand its online presence and engage with both its local communities and its growing international audience. The new site also incorporates PTP’s travel site, Guidemag, rolling it into a new section called Daily Xtra Travel.

2014

Daily Xtra’s YouTube channel tops 40,000 subscribers, with more than 26 million views and counting.

2015

PTP decides to fully embrace digital journalism, discontinue its Xtra print editions, expand its digital operations and move entirely online. The last issue of Xtra Vancouver hits the stands on Feb 12.