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Thursday, 01 June 2017 09:38

Lieutenant Governor helps kick off inaugural Pride Week in Swift Current

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The inaugural Pride Week in Swift Current started with a flag raising ceremony that was attended by the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan.


The well attended ceremony on Market Square took place at noon on May 29. A number of speakers addressed the crowd.
A common theme during these speeches was that Pride Week will make a difference to promote a better understanding of diversity and to create a sense of belonging in the community.
“Pride Week is about celebrating the diversity that makes life so wonderful, it’s about bringing people together to create understanding, it’s about eliminating fear, and Pride Week is about creating a country where we can all say this is who I am and I belong here,” Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield said.
She noted during her speech that there is still work to be done to create truly inclusive communities, and she is grateful to the allies who support this mission of public education and transformation.
“Change is often slow in coming, but we must never ever forget how far we’ve actually come, and the reason we’ve come so far is thanks to all the courageous members of the LGBTQ community who have faced rejection and prejudice to share their stories and to share their lives,” she said. “You are deeply, deeply inspiring to me, and I thank you all for making our communities that much better.”
Swift Current Pride Week was organized by Southwest Saskatchewan Pride. Board Chair Andrea McCrimmon said the group was surprised and delighted with the overwhelming community support during the planning of the event.
“Supporting diversity within our community has many benefits for the wellbeing of the citizens of Swift Current,” she mentioned.
“There is a persistent idea that LGBTQ people will not find happiness or fulfilment in small cities like Swift Current. Our group and the events that we’ve planned during the Pride Week demonstrate that is just not the case. One of the goals of Swift Current Pride Week is to bring visibility to Swift Current’s LGBTQ community and to highlight the fact that Swift Current is a wonderful place to live and to be part of an inclusive and diverse community.”
She noted that it is a privilege to live in a country where gender and sexual diversity is protected under the human rights code, but that privilege cannot be taken for granted.
“The visibility of our LGBTQ community is important in small cities like Swift Current and in rural Saskatchewan because it has a protective effect on other members of our community and it creates a safe space where people can be themselves, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation and the broader community becomes more willing to stand up to protect their LGBTQ friends, neighbours and family members, both here and around the world from harassment, violence, discrimination and exclusion,” she said.
The City of Swift Current proclaimed the week of May 28 to June 3 as Pride Week. According to Mayor Denis Perrault the week is not just a celebration of the LGBTQ community, but it is also a celebration for the entire community.
“Swift Current is a progressive community that celebrates diversity and supports all of its people,” he said. “We are so proud to be a safe and caring community and we believe that today and this week helps us achieve that end.”
He referred to the cooperation between the City of Swift Current and the members of Southwest Saskatchewan Pride.
“I do really hope that the progress we’ve made together spurs on similar efforts in cities across Saskatchewan,” he said. “This past Friday I was at a city mayor’s caucus group and I spoke with many of our mayors across our province, and many of them will be following the lead of the city of Swift Current.”
Icasiana de Gala, the executive director of the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, said they are honoured to be a part of the Swift Current Pride Week celebrations.
“We are an organization that provides services to newcomers from around the world, at least 86 counties actually,” she said. “Newcomers with so many different ethnic backgrounds, language, religion, education, values, and of diverse gender. With these differences come a lot of barriers, issues and challenges. For our newcomers who identify as members of the LGBTQ community, there is even an additional barrier for them, not knowing how they will be accepted in this community.”
Two students from Swift Current Comprehensive High School (SCCHS), who are members of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), spoke at the event.
“This flag raising is very important to me personally because I have never fathomed that our city would be this supportive or even open to a GSA opening,” Jory McKay said. “Unfortunately it took until my Grade 12 year for that to happen at SCCHS but in the past two years we’ve had three GSA’s open in our local community and four in our school district.”
McKenzie Janzen, the current president of the SCCHS GSA, felt this inaugural Pride Week and the existence of GSA’s at three schools in the city (Fairview, Maverick and SCCHS) are indications of the recent progress to make the city a safe place for LGBTQ people.
“As soon as I found out there’d been a GSA in the works at my school, I was ecstatic,” she said. “I joined as soon as possible and for once in my life I committed myself to this group. I began speaking much more about LGBTQ rights and issues surrounding that. I’ve now made it my personal goal to avoid letting any queer person here feel as if they are alone in this town.”
As part of this inaugural Pride Week in Swift Current the first permanent rainbow crosswalk in Saskatchewan has been installed on the 200 block of Central Avenue North in the city’s downtown. McCrimmon said there has been an overwhelmingly positive response to the rainbow crosswalk and it has made people very proud of their community.
“People are very proud that their home town is taking groundbreaking steps to be a safe and inclusive community,” she said. “The rainbow crosswalk is a powerful symbol that things are changing for the better in Saskatchewan.”
A variety of Pride Week activities are scheduled in Swift Current. Some of the main events will take place on June 3. There will be a family barbecue at Market Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The inaugural Swift Current Price march will start at Market Square at noon. The week’s activities will conclude that evening with the Lyric Theatre’s annual Pride dance, starting at 8 p.m. More details about the Pride Week events are available on the Southwest Saskatchewan Pride website at www.southwestsaskpride.com

Read 385 times Last modified on Thursday, 01 June 2017 13:05
Matthew Liebenberg

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