In 1972 when Harold Desmarais was first involved in gay liberation through Windsor Gay Unity (WGU); he had been working at Ford's Windsor Engine Plant for over two years. The U.A.W. (precursor to the C.A.W.) had a contract with Ford that included a 'sexual orientation' clause prohibiting them from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Although he did endure harassment, it was this job protection that allowed him to be a very open and public spokesperson for WGU. Most other members would have put their jobs at risk if they spoke out publicly. It would take another 14 years before Ontario amended its Human Rights Code to provide that same job protection to all.
In 1975, Harold was a founding member of the Coalition for Gay Rights in Ontario (now the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario). In 1980, seven of Toronto's gay businesses agreed to fund a full-time paid employee and Harold became Executive Secretary. His primary role was to solicit support for an amendment to the Ontario Human Rights Code. When he returned to University in 1978, Harold founded Gay Students on Campus (University of Windsor) to address specific needs of students and educating people about the reality of being a lesbian or gay living in a homophobic society. In 1982, Harold assumed the job of Recording Secretary for the GCDC (Gay Community Dance Committee) and continued on in that capacity for the next 12 years. During its existence the GCDC raised over $400,000.00 and distributed those funds to over 40 groups and organizations
Harold was very involved with Lesbian and Gay Community Appeal (now Community One Foundation) and chaired both the Projects Selection and the Projects Monitoring Committees. In 1983 they underwrote a Vaudeville-style show, Fruit Cocktail, to raise funds and showcase LGBT talent. It became a biennial event between 1983 and 1995 and Harold was cast in all seven shows as 'The Grapes' in 1983-85 and 'The Pineapple' from 1987 - 95. The Fruit are now a popular 'brand image' for the Community One Foundation. In 1994, Harold was awarded their prestigious Outstanding Community Achievement Award and three years later, their Outstanding Volunteer Service Award.
Harold also had a public persona as Sister Atrociata von Tasteless, a nun in the Toronto Chapter of 'the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence' from 1981-86. Committed to a philosophy (the promulgation of joy and the expiation of guilt) and dedicated in their service to the community, they have been instrumental in supporting the community over the past several decades.
Harold served as the Master of Ceremonies for Pride Day festivities from 1986 thru 1989, was an active member of the Board for the PWA Foundation, and a volunteer for the Aids Committee of Toronto. In 2003, Harold was inducted into the National Portrait Collection of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives. He continues to work as a volunteer helping various community organizations including the 519 Community Centre, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, TICOT and others.