By: ERICA HOWES
The morning of July 28, downtown London, Ont. came alive in rainbow colours. With over 700 registered floats and thousands of Londoners showing support, it was the largest Pride Parade the city has ever seen.
Andrew Rosser, president of the Pride London Festival said that this year the board of directors focused on creating a “family-friendly atmosphere.”
“Our goal is really to get the greater community involved and fight things like homophobia and transphobia that still linger,” Rosser said.
“During Pride it’s nice that everyone celebrates, but during the rest of the year it feels like people forget and don’t always, say, fight back against a homophobic comment,” he said.
Although downtown London was draped in rainbow colours and flags last week, Rosser explained that London has had a long and rocky history of celebrating Pride, one that “not every city has had.”
In 1995, the same year Ontario became the first province to allow same-sex couples to adopt, London mayor Dianne Haskett refused to acknowledge the Pride Festival or issue a gay pride proclamation.
The Homophile Association of London Ontario (HALO) filed an official complaint of discrimination to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Haskett, along with the City of London, were each charged a $5000 fine. From 2000-2010, London mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best acknowledged the Pride Festival but never attended.
London’s current mayor Joe Fontana has been an avid supporter of the Pride Festival for the three years he has been in power, greatly contributing to its growing numbers.
“London does it with class,” Fontana said. “It takes us a little while sometimes but we’re here and it’s great to see there’s so much support.”
Police Chief Bradley Duncan has been participating in the parade with his contingent for the past three years. He explained that the Pride London Festival was fenced in at various street corners and parking lots throughout the city last year.
This August, police blocked off downtown streets as people marched through the heart of the city, ending their route in Victoria Park.
“That is a statement in itself,” said Duncan.