With Toronto still reeling from a double hangover of Pride coupled with Canada Day, it would be easy to overlook Ontario (and quite possibly Canada’s) smallest Pride Parade. On June 22nd, Pembroke Ontario, a (bustling) community of 16,000 in the Upper Reaches of the Ottawa Valley, hosted its second annual Pride Celebration. That a community in rural Eastern Ontario celebrated one pride celebration may beggar belief, but the fact that it proceeded to host a second one is simply jaw dropping!
Although Liberal MP Scott Brison has jokingly declared that he and his husband Maxime are a pride parade every time they go for a walk through his rural Nova Scotian riding, Pembroke’s pride celebration likely takes the pink fondant. Of course, as anyone will tell you, size doesn’t matter—it’s what you do with it that counts.
Crystal Barbieri, one of the Pride organizers, lauded this year as a huge success. She said “we’re getting more support from the community, there are more Pride events happening, and there’s more media attention.” Considering only one local paper picked it up, it is indeed a great improvement since last year. Oddly not one of the major media outlets deigned to take an interest in the goings on of Pembroke’s Pride Celebration; perhaps they were too enamoured with the AG’s report and the most recent polling. It is also quite possible that they thought any press release about it were a joke—after all this is the Ottawa Valley, the same region which has sent an Alliance MP (now Conservative) to Ottawa in 2000, a woman who still tends to equate homosexuality with pedophilia.
Regardless, a large crowd gathered at Pembroke’s Waterfront Park that Saturday, all properly attired in rainbow colours, which were (as usual) de rigueur. At 1:00pm, the “Pride Walk” started to wind its way along the sidewalks of downtown Pembroke. Passing motorists honked their horns in approval, and local businesses came out to wave and showcase their own rainbow colours in support. After the “Walk,” celebrations continued throughout the night in Pembroke’s “gay village,” essentially a gay friendly bar and cafe. Entertainment was provided for the afternoon and evening, including a drag troupe from Ottawa, and several Drag Queens set to grace the local bar. Presumably, the drag queens would be on the stage at the bar-though simply gracing the bar would not be out of the question. All in all it certainly worked towards Ms. Barbieri’s goal of celebrating and expanding the safe space for LGBT persons in the Ottawa Valley—something desperately needed.
The lone official to come out to show his support for the LGBT community was federal Liberal candidate Jeff Lehoux—who was given the chance to be a guest speaker at the event and proceeded to march, er, walk the entire length of the “Parade Route.” The aformentioned Conservative (former Alliance) incumbent, Cheryl Gallant, did not even acknowledge the events in her riding, even though the walk passed by her front door. Given her past hostility towards members of the LGBT community, her attendance wasn’t expected. More surprisingly, the nominated NDP candidate Dan McCarthy didn’t show up either. The event was well publicized and all were welcome, but neither Gallant nor McCarthy uttered a single Tweet about the Pembroke Pride. Ever. Apparently, while “LGBT rights are human rights” for the NDP, it doesn’t mean that all of their candidates have to tangibly show their support for the local LGBT community. It’s not like gays and lesbians have it hard in rural areas or anything and need all the support they can get!
Perhaps McCarthy is subtly honouring the LGBT community through an homage to Rocky Horror by taking a step to the right? Like leader like follower eh?
Providing people like Ms. Barbieri continue working hard at organizing events like these, the LGBT community in the area will begin to feel they can be themselves as time goes on.
When questioned as to why he chose to attend—besides trying to court the progressive, queer, and youth votes—Mr. Lehoux (a veteran of Afghanistan) paraphrased Edmund Burke, saying, “if there’s a situation of some sort of injustice and you’re silent on the matter, you’re with the oppressors.” A statement that still rings true, though ironic when used by liberals (adherents to the ideology not members of the political party), since Burke was a conservative (actually a member of a conservative party, not just an adherent to the ideology).