Pride flag raised in Prince Albert during Sochi Paralympics

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Anyone walking or driving past city hall will notice a colourful flag has been raised.

On Friday, the Prince Albert Q-Network raised the pride flag outside of city hall in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Transsexual and Bisexual (LGTB) community in Russia who are facing prosecution for their sexual orientation.

The flag will be up during the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia from March 7 to 16.

“It is part of mandate with the Prince Albert Key Network to provide support and advocacy not just for us, but for all people,” said Jennifer Brockman, chairperson of the Prince Albert Q-Network. “To be able to show the Russian community that we stand in solidarity with them, it means a lot because I know how it feels to feel isolated or feel fearful and just to show we support might help to bring a little comfort.”

Lisa Haight, who was also at the flag raising, said that although she loves the idea of the Olympics, with people from all countries gathering together, it is unfortunate that there is homophobia in Russia that segregates those of a different sexual orientation. 

“To me, this is our support not only of our athletes, but athletes across the world who are gay, lesbian, transsexual, transgender … that we can show our support here in Prince Albert and stand up for them and be proud we are in a country that has supported our rights and freedoms and continue to fight for them even here,” Haight said.

Brockman said the three emotions the LGTB community feel the most are fear, loneliness and isolation.

“I can just imagine what it is like for our community out in Russia -- only one per cent of the community in Russia is openly gay and the rest are fearful and in hiding,” Brockman said. “It just makes me sad that we can stand here and raise this flag, but they aren’t able to do that there -- they would be arrested for propaganda.”

Not only are the LGTB community prosecuted in Russia, there are 83 countries in the world where it is illegal to be gay, she said.

“Just think about the blessings we have, to be here in Canada being able to marry who we love and although we can experience that discrimination too -- there is gay bashing and trans bashing that occurs -- it is still really something to be grateful for that we can stand here together and be able to raise this flag and speak these words without fear of being arrested,” Brockman said.

During the flag raising a passerby yelled at those gathered to take the flag down, something Brockman quickly addressed.

“Even though we heard a remark, someone saying, ‘Take down that flag,’ that is the reason we celebrate it and raise it is to come together as a community, stand against homophobia like that and support each other,” Brockman said.  

Haight said homophobia is still experienced in Canada, even though there are no laws against it.

“It is still seen, it is still experienced and really we are just setting the way for future generations to be able to walk freely down the streets and feel comfortable, just like any other human being,” Haight said.

Although the Q-Network would have liked the flag up while the Olympic Games were in Sochi, they understood why it wasn’t possible.

“We understood. For sure, it was disappointing but we also understood there was the Winter Festival flag (and Winter Games) and so we weren’t able to get our request in sooner,” Brockman said. “It was understandable. To have this option to raise it during the Paralympics was a nice compromise.”

She also thanked those in attendance for their support of the LGTB community.

“Thank you for attending and coming together as a community and raising this flag,” Brockman said. “Every little bit helps, I believe, with the choice of words and letting people know they are loved and cared about and taking away those feelings of fear and isolation and loneliness.”

She hopes to share the Q-network’s support of the Russian LGTB community with them through the Internet.

“We plan on posting any news articles or pictures to some of the advocacy groups in Russia to let them know what is happening here and they are not alone,” Brockman said.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., the Q-Network will have a screening of two documentaries at the Calvary United Church -- Hunted in Russia, about what life is like for the LGTB community in Russia, and Getting Out, about what life is like for those in Uganda.

The Q-Network can be found on Facebook or contacted by phone at 306-940-6836. Within the next few weeks, they will also be launching a website.

Organizations: Prince Albert Q-Network, Prince Albert Key Network, Olympic Games Calvary United Church The Q

Geographic location: Russia, Prince Albert, Sochi Canada Uganda

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