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Sask Pride Makes History
First province-wide celebration gets wide support

 
Ev and Lil in the parade, celebrating their 25 year relationship, in a 25 year-old convertible.
Regina's Prairie Pride Chorus performs at the beginning of the rally in front of the Legislature.
 
 
Regina City Hall
HISTORY was made on Saturday in Regina as Canada's first province-wide Pride Day took place with wide support from both the Community and prominent Saskatchewan groups and individuals.

The provincial government's repeated refusal to proclaim Saskatchewan Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Pride Day didn't stop the parade which made its way from the Regina Union Centre to the steps of the legislature where a rally was held.  Nor did it stop the rainbow flag from having been flown at Regina City Hall throughout Pride Week after the city made its proclamation, or the escort from the Regina Police Service whose officers also brought up the rear of the parade.

Participation from across the prairie province was estimated by the Regina Pride Committee to be 350.

Organizers were thrilled with the turnout.

"It's the first time in Canada's history that a gay, lesbian, [and] bisexual pride parade is held with a provincial focus," Duncan Campbell of the Regina Pride Committee told the CBC.  "There are pride parades - of course - all over the country, but they're usually focused on cities ... this, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in the history of the country that an entire province has come together to celebrate gay, lesbian, [and] bisexual pride."

"I think it's an incredible day to have this many lesbians, gays, bisexuals, labour, church groups, families on such a rainy, unpleasant day," Gens Hellquist, Executive Director of Gay and Lesbian Health Services in Saskatoon, told the Regina Leader Post.

"This definitely proves a point that gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders are all regular people and are part of society," added Chris Schlamp, co-chair of the Regina Pride Committee.

The LGBT Community was joined by representatives of organizations from across the prairie province, including the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).

The line-up of key figures at the rally included Barb Byers, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour; Dwaine Dornan, past President, Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church; Chief Cal Johnston, Regina Police Service; Gens Hellquist, Executive Director, Gay and Lesbian Health Services of Saskatoon; Kay Williams, Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG), Saskatoon; Mark Wartman, MLA (NDP), Regina Qu'Appelle Valley; and Murray Billett, Prairie Region Board Member, Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE), Edmonton.

Police Chief Cal Johnston emphasized the importance of police involvement in upholding fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech, thought and assembly.

"I think that Regina's a fairly free and open community and I think it's important to respect the rights of people to gather like this and express their point of view," he was quoted by the Leader Post as saying.

"Pride week is about educating the public, letting them know we are regular people, just like everyone else," Mr. Schlamp continued.

Although some higher-ups in the provincial government and legislature were reported as having sent their regrets, the refusal by the Saskatchewan government to proclaim the province-wide Day was criticized.

"I think it's ludicrous that we deny citizens of our province equality, whether they be gay or lesbian or aboriginal, women, or whatever group," Mr. Hellquist declared.

Onwards to Saskatoon

Although parade participants stopped at the steps of the Saskatchewan legislature, the province-wide Pride celebration figuratively marched onwards to Saskatoon, where Pride Week in Saskatchewan's northern city began the next day.

The week's events - which include a film festival, art show, awards night and dance party - were kicked off by the raising of the rainbow flag at City Hall yesterday.

Saskatoon Pride Committee spokesperson Erin Scriven was on-hand for the ceremonial event.

"Being in my own community and having a symbol of who I am flying at City Hall is a life-changing experience," she told the Saskatoon Star.  "This is a very important day because there are still so many people afraid to come out because they fear they will be rejected by family and co-workers ... [t]his public symbol of support is very powerful," Ms. Scriven added.

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City Councillor Patricia Roe, who sported a multi-coloured symbolic ribbon on her shirt, told the Star special proclamations are the city's way of recognizing its distinct groups.  It does the same thing for veterans and community associations like the United Way, she stated.

"We're very happy to do this for the gay and lesbian community because they are doctors, lawyers, parents, teachers and ministers who play a vital role in the city's development," she said. "To single them out as not being worthy of recognition is not appropriate," the Councillor added.

Roe went on record as disagreeing with provincial government's proclamation refusal, calling it "short-sighted," and saying, "All I can say is this city is trying to lead by example ... I hope that will change in time ... [i]t gives them the same rights that every other citizen has and that's all they're asking for."

Further information on the Saskatoon Pride Week celebration may be obtained by calling (306) 665-1224.