Community Homophile Association of Toronto

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Community Homophile Association of Toronto

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

  • CHAT

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1971- 1977

History

Finding its roots in the University of Toronto Homophile Association, the Community Homophile Association of Toronto was officially established on January 3, 1971. Given the growing public interest in the UTHA, the need for a community organization outside of the University became apparent to members of the UTHA. On December 11, 1970, an inaugural meeting was held to officially establish the Community Homophile Association of Toronto. A steering committee of 15 members was appointed, with George Hislop as its Interim Director. CHAT’s first public meeting was held at the Holy Trinity Church in February 1971. A Board of Directors was elected on March 3, 1972, which included George Hislop, Patricia Murphy, Clive Bell, Kathleen Brindley and 6 general members. CHAT’s first meeting was attended by approximately 50 people. By 1972, the Association had 400 paid members, with 150 regular meeting attendees. CHAT’s first office was located at 6 Charles Street. The Association was incorporated in 1974.

CHAT’s work as a service community group centered around its “central plank to come out of the state of fear and apprehension which surrounds the public assertion of one’s rights of sexuality”, with a secondary aim to achieve equal civil rights to those of heterosexuals. CHAT’s work sought to provide support services, education, community events and political advocacy.

Soon after the Association was established, it received a Federal grant through the Opportunities for Youth Project. This grant of $9000 allowed the Association to provide in person counselling, a 24 hour distress line and legal, medical and psychiatric referrals to the public. Once these funds ran out, these services were maintained by CHAT volunteers. Soon after, CHAT applied for the Local Initiatives Program Grant which was rejected. The Association reapplied with letters of support from the Ontario Mental Hospital, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry and other distress centres operating in Toronto, and was awarded a grant of $14,602 with extension. This grant was used to employ 8 staff members to restaff the distress centre and to work on educationals for schools and universities.

In addition to its support services, education and community events were central to the Association's operations. In its early days, CHAT held weekly general meetings at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, which would would involve discussion groups and guest speakers. In 1972, CHAT established Canada’s first gay community centre at 58 Cecil Street. Formerly a Jewish Synagogue and Chinese Catholic Community Centre, this space provided enough room for CHAT's offices, events and weekly or biweekly dances. The 58 Cecil Street Community Centre was the departure point for Toronto’s first Gay Pride Week in 1972.

CHAT community events took place on a regular basis, and included dances, coming out nights (for those who had recently come out), women’s nights and coffee sessions. A resource library was also established, which provided the public with reference material on a variety of subjects, and homophile and gay liberation groups from across North America.

Although CHAT’s efforts were largely focused on community education and support, it also was involved in political advocacy. CHAT submitted a number of briefs and lobbied the Provincial and Federal Governments on a variety of issues and existing legislation, which included the Immigration Act, the Criminal Code and the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Association was also involved in the National Gay Rights Coalition and National Gay Election Coalition. Additionally, CHAT played a role in organizing and co-sponsoring events and demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa. These included Toronto’s first gay picnic at Hanlan’s Point in 1971, Toronto’s first annual Gay Pride Week in 1972, a rally of Canadian and American gay groups to the Ontario Legislature and at Parliament Hill.

In June 1973, CHAT's community space moved to 201 Church Street, while CHAT administrative and counselling offices relocated to 223 Church Street. In the fall of 1977 CHAT moved to a smaller office located at 19 St. Joseph Street due to declining membership and interest. CHAT disbanded at the end of 1977.

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Maintenance notes

  • Clipboard

  • Export

  • EAC

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