The Community One Foundation has chosen Dennis Findlay as the recipient of the 2017 Steinert & Ferreiro Award in recognition of more than 40 years of LGBTQ activism in Ontario.
Starting in his university days, Mr. Findlay helped organize social events and other activities to strengthen the LGBTQ community. After moving to Toronto in the 1970s, he continued his community involvement by volunteering at Pink Triangle Press, and opening his bakery – Altitude Baking – to catering LGBTQ fundraisers.
After the infamous Toronto bathhouse raids of 1981, Mr. Findlay immediately became involved with the Right to Privacy Committee, helping to organize protests, fundraise and coordinate legal support. Upon discovering a dozen of the accused did not have lawyers, he acted as their defence, even representing them in two trials, which he won. He described the experience as both frightening and empowering.
Mr. Findlay then organized Gay Court Watch, supporting LGBTQ people facing charges for consensual sex. The strategies developed by Gay Court Watch are still used as a template today, most recently in 2016 after Toronto Police carried out an undercover operation in Marie Curtis Park.
After a rise in homophobic attacks in the early to mid-1980s following the bathhouse raids, Mr. Findlay formed the Gay Street Patrol – a group of LGBT-identifying people trained in self-defence, first aid and CPR, patrolling Toronto’s gay village.
Along with LGBTQ activism, Mr. Findlay has been involved with numerous environmental action groups, helped organize the Seaton Ontario Berkeley Residents Association (now the Cabbagetown South Residents Association) and setup co-operative housing in the community.
He is currently President of the Canadian Gay & Lesbian Archives where he is focused on increasing the institution’s inclusiveness of the entire LGBTQ+ spectrum.
The Steinert & Ferreiro Award honours those unsung heroes whose work in the LGBTTIQQ2S community has helped achieve growth, understanding and change. This year, Community One is honoured to recognize the achievements, determination and courage of Dennis Findlay.