Pride parade puts the fun in fight for equal rights

Matt
Matt Gardner
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Intermittent rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of participants in this year’s Pride parade.

For many the highlight of Pride Week celebrations in Prince Albert, the annual parade and community rally continues to grow in strength, attracting almost 50 participants from communities across northern Saskatchewan.

“I was really impressed … especially to hear about some people coming from different communities like Duck Lake, James Smith, St. Louis, Meadow Lake, and some attending their very first Pride parade and choosing to do it here,” Prince Albert Q-Network president Jennifer Brockman said.

“It’s always a stressful time organizing it and I wonder, sometimes … are we making a difference?” she added. “That’s when I know we’re making a difference, is (when) I see those couples holding hands, and those people just coming from other communities and attending and celebrating -- it just makes it all worthwhile.”

Revelers assembled in front of the Court of Queen’s Bench in the early afternoon before setting out down Central Avenue, attracting supportive honks from many passing vehicles.

Vehicles decked out in rainbow flags paved the way for pedestrians walking behind. One of the vehicles, dubbed the Trans Pride Van, blared trans-friendly music such as Dude (Looks Like A Lady) by Aerosmith and Lola by The Kinks.

The parade route took participants down Central Avenue, west along 28th Street and back down First Avenue West before settling at Kinsmen Park. Participants there enjoyed a range of guest speakers and live entertainment along with a barbecue.

Kicking off the presentations, emcee Stephanie Bourne read out a list of prominent individuals who came out over the last year, such as Canadian actress Ellen Page.

Noting the theme of this year’s Pride Week festivities, “Out and About,” she added, “It’s about honouring ourselves and others and being out -- not only to our personal circles, but also in the community and making a difference for those people who don’t have that support group around them.”

In her own remarks, Brockman thanked the work of pioneering activists over the years who helped make Prince Albert more friendly to the LGBTQ community by establishing social support groups and gay-straight alliances (GSAs).

“Anybody who did anything to help support the community, I thank them because they’re the reason that we’re able to be here,” she said.

Other speakers included representatives of communities from across Saskatchewan.

Hailing from Regina was TransSask Support Services co-ordinator Mikayla Schultz, who also helped found the provincial trans support organization.

“It’s great to be here again representing the trans community of Saskatchewan and TransSask Support Services,” Schultz said. “Prince Albert’s always welcoming to us in the trans community and it’s just great to be a part of the festivities.

“As of last year there’s been huge growth for the trans community in Saskatchewan, especially in regards to human rights. We’ve undertaken a human rights awareness campaign called the Time 4 Rights … We encourage all the allies of the transgender community to show their support for gender-diverse people, all gender-diverse people.”

The Time 4 Rights campaign calls for the inclusion of “gender identity” and “gender expression” in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. Additional information is available at www.time4rights.ca.

Schultz noted that TransSask Support Services is currently in the process of creating a branch in Prince Albert.

“We are actually in the process of establishing one. We’ve made contact with a few trans people in the city here, so (we’re) just trying to get coordinated and appoint a facilitator and hopefully we’ll have a chapter here. We’ve got chapters in Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon already.”

It’s OK to love a girl if you’re a girl, and it’s OK to love a boy if you’re a boy. Arianna Hovdebo, age 9

Two-Spirit elder and Duck Lake resident Marjorie Beaucage reiterated the significance of so many LGBTQ individuals from different areas of Saskatchewan attending.

“This is the first time we have so many from away, away,” she said. “It’s really important … Our communities need to support the youth and the people that are not ‘out and about’ yet because it’s not safe.”

Another speaker on Saturday was Saskatoon Centre MLA David Forbes.

As the Saskatchewan NDP critic for human rights, diversity and equity, Forbes annually attends pride parades in other communities across the province, including P.A., Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon.

“There was this demonstration in Weyburn that I was at earlier in April that was talking about protecting human rights for the rainbow community, and so I think it’s just important to get out and stand in support and solidarity as an ally with the community,” Forbes said.

The MLA noted that many challenges still remain when it comes to acceptance and support for the LGBTQ community, pointing to a recent conference in Weyburn that featured a speaker in which “his main thesis was really around hate and not tolerance for the queer community.”

Forbes noted that the NDP is fully supportive of efforts to include gender identity and gender expression in the provincial Human Rights Code.

“It’s important both those pieces are in place,” he said. “Across Canada, we know human rights codes are being amended to be more proactive. We’re behind here in Saskatchewan.”

He also pointed to other ongoing issues, such as the need to have a discussion about gender markers on provincial identification cards and the presence of GSAs at schools in Prince Albert.

“That’s hugely important that kids in our schools have safe spaces,” he said. “So we’ve been advocating in the provincial legislature that they get moving on the bullying legislation and the initiatives that should be there.”

Another speaker represented the progressive role that can be played by faith when it comes to support of the LGBTQ community.

Calvary United Church congregational designated minister Lorelei Clifford noted that the United Church of Canada had “proudly embraced” members of that community since 1988, when the United Church’s 32nd General Council declared that anyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ -- regardless of sexual orientation --was welcome to membership in the church.

Clifford recently hosted a local Bible study entitled “Queer and Christian Without Contradiction.”

“We specifically looked at Bible readings that have been used to condemn homosexuality and we looked at what they really said and how the Bible as a whole really is talking about God loving everyone,” she said. “It was a really good study.”

Following the speakers, local musician and Search for the Stars winner Daniel LeBlanc offered live entertainment for the crowd.

His set included an original song, Yellow Lines, written specifically for the occasion, with lyrics expressing support for ongoing LGBTQ struggles.

One promising sign of growing acceptance from the younger generation came from nine-year-old Arianna Hovdebo, who attended the parade to support her aunt, Prince Albert Q-Network co-chair Nicole Milas.

Hovdebo offered a cogent summary of one of the day’s key messages.

“It’s OK to love a girl if you’re a girl,” she said. “And it’s OK to love a boy if you’re a boy.”

Geographic location: Kinsmen Park, Prince Albert

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