Community celebration marks York Region's first PRIDE Week
PRIDE came early to Toronto's northern neighbour, as the York Region LGBT community celebrated its first official PRIDE Week, June 10 through 16.
York Region's 677,000 residents make it the eighth largest municipality in Canada, but with the population spread over 1,756 square kilometres, life across most of the Region moves to an appealing "small town" beat...a little quieter, a lot less flambouyant than Toronto. Large or small, many cities across the country have struggled for years with the question of whether or not to recognize PRIDE celebrations, so when York Regional Council voted "yes" on the first request, organizers were elated.
The theme for this first annual event was "Show your PRIDE, fly the flag!" and there was no shortage of rainbow PRIDE flags at Saturday night's gala dance and wrap-up party. The Sharon Community Centre was decked out with flags, banners, balloons, and over 150 rainbow-waving celebrants including guests-of-honour George Smitherman, M.P.P. for Toronto Centre (Rosedale), and Jeffrey Holec, Mayor of Georgina.
"Being out in Toronto has been relatively easy for me," said Smitherman in his remarks to the crowd, "but that isn't necessarily the case here. You've all taken risks to be out and I salute you!"
"The risks are in the homophobia we face in our everyday lives." explains Ian McCallum, Co-Chair of PRIDE York Region. "It's our hope that by having PRIDE Week recognized we'll raise the visibility of the gay and lesbian community in neighbourhoods throughout York Region. We're aiming to increase understanding and acceptance."
While a flag-raising was not forthcoming from the Region, PRIDE Week organizers are quick to point out that they and their membership are delighted by Council's "yes" vote for recognition. Meanwhile, the York Region District School Board showed its support for the cause by mounting a literature display at Board headquarters in Aurora, and posting a PRIDE Week sign outside its Richmond Hill offices.
"Recognition of the proclamation by the Region is just one way that we can show our commitment to all staffand students of our schools, regardless of their sexual orientation," says Kevin McBean, Business Administrator for the Board. McBean also cites one of the Board's value statements: "We strive for equity, inclusiveness, and diversity in all our programs, practices, facilities, and people."
And that, say organizers, is what PRIDE is all about!
This article first appeared on the PrideVision TV Web Site, June 21, 2001.