By: KIRSTEN FENN
The sun may have been tucked behind the clouds in Ottawa on Monday afternoon, but rainbow colours shone brightly in the sky at City Hall during the official flag raising ceremony of Capital Pride 2013.
The event ended a daylong flag raising tour that kicked off at the Ottawa Police Services Headquarters in the early morning and continued at various locations across the city. A designated OC Transpo Pride bus provided transportation for visitors.
By late afternoon, community members gathered at Marion Dewar Plaza to watch Mayor Jim Watson raise the sixth and final rainbow flag of the day with the help of Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi and Micheal Lafontaine, interim chair of Capital Pride.
“Does everyone know what the theme is for this year’s Pride?” Lafontaine asked the crowd as he commenced opening speeches. “I want to hear it, say it real loud!”
“BE LOUD, BE PROUD!” the crowd shouted in reply. And there was plenty of discussion about what exactly Ottawa has to be proud of.
For the first time in history, Lafontaine said, the annual Pride Parade will march through Ottawa’s designated GLBTQ Village on Bank St.
Ottawa Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi, who spoke at the event, also touted the achievements Canadians have made in the realm of GLBTQ rights.
“For the very first time [in Canada] we have the protection of gender expression and gender identity in our human rights code,” Naqvi said, the crowd cheering and whistling in support.
“We have the first premier in our province, and in all the country, who is a lesbian and in a same-sex relationship. It’s an incredible achievement for our province and our country,” he said.
But the ceremony was not without reminder of the challenges and responsibilities Canada faces in terms of supporting human rights around the world. In light of Russia’s anti-gay legislation passed this June, Pride is an especially important moment to speak out for those who face discrimination, Naqvi said.
Canadians have the power to show their support for the international GLBTQ community by letting federal MPs know that they won’t tolerate discriminatory behaviour from governments such as Russia’s, Watson later added in an interview.
Capital Pride’s international marshal Maurice Tomlinson echoed the sentiment, explaining that in his country – Jamaica – people do not have the right to engage in “private, consensual, same-gender intimacy,” let alone celebrate Pride festivities in public. In many countries around the world, people are murdered for such acts, he said.
“You’re free to support without fear of persecution [here], and that’s a privilege you really should not take for granted,” Tomlinson said.
Before raising the rainbow flag with the help of Laontaine and Naqvi, Watson officially proclaimed Aug. 16-25 Capital Pride Festival Days in the City of Ottawa.
“Diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity represents a positive contribution to society and is therefore a matter of pride and celebration,” Watson said.