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  • Writer's pictureDouglas W. Judson

Judson Calls for Municipal Support of Pride

Remarks of Douglas W. Judson from the May 15, 2019 meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association. Check against delivery.

Good evening.

I’d like to speak about a series of special events coming to our region from May 24 to June 9.

Those are the dates of Borderland Pride’s 2nd annual Pride festival. This year, the festival is dubbed “PRIDE WEEK+”, in recognition that it spans over a week in length with more partner organizations than ever before.

Pride Week will once again include a cross-border Pride march (where local community leaders are welcome to share remarks) in addition to two outdoor concerts, a number of opportunities for artistic expression, learning, and reflection – and of course, drag.

Last year hundreds of people from across the district participated in these activities to help celebrate diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of difference in our communities – and to take part in opportunities for learning and engagement on LGBTQ2 issues.

Pride is powered by public participation, and as we plan for this year’s festival, it has once again been inspiring to see so many local businesses and organizations identify Pride as one of their guiding values, and step forward with ideas to express support for LGBTQ2 young people and families.

Part of this effort is meant to assert our communities as welcoming and inclusive places to live and work. That’s why Borderland Pride wrote each municipality inviting local leaders to partake in its programming, and specifically, to display a rainbow flag and pass a resolution proclaiming June 2 to 9 as Pride Week.

I was delighted to see that Mayor Caul in Fort Frances and Reeve Heyens in Morley have already issued their proclamations. I also understand that Mayor Ewald also has a special event coming up in Rainy River on May 25. That visibility means so much to so many people, even if they can’t tell you themselves.

Pride is quickly becoming a landmark summer activity for our region. It returns direct economic benefits by bringing people out to support local businesses, dine at local restaurants, and stay at local hotels. It also helps to position our communities and our district as a forward-thinking and inclusive place for families, professionals, and entrepreneurs to call their home and put down roots, confident in the welcome, love, and respect that they will receive from us.

Frankly, if none of us are in this business of local government to promote our communities like that and help them to grow, what are we doing here?

But sadly, that is the question I have to ask, when I hear that some councils in this district are either scrapping Pride’s request, or stripping all of the supportive language from the requested resolution – a resolution that simply acknowledges LGBTQ2 people as worthy of human dignity and Pride as a cause for celebration.

A resolution in respect of Pride is anything but if your council takes steps which remove any reference to LGBTQ2 people as a positive contribution to society, to violence against them as wrong, or to queer people as worthy of respect. That is not a resolution of Pride. It is one of homophobia. It is discriminatory. And it is a attempt to avoid liability while taking a shot at queer kids and their families.

I want to make this abundantly clear: Borderland Pride receives messages and emails from people with ties to each of our communities. They tell us about the abuse they suffered here as a young person who was different; about the times that they felt so isolated that they attempted to take their own life; and about the bullies, the harassment, and the physical and emotional violence they survived, at home or at a school. Many tell us they’ve never come back.

But ultimately, they also tell us, that seeing Pride in their community means so much to them today because they know what it would have meant to them in their time of need.

As community leaders, we need to be the standard-bearers of that safe haven. The law requires it, and human consequences – if not also legal ones – may haunt those of us who do not rise to the occasion.

It is a sombre and unfortunate tone that I have had to bring here, on what should be a jubilant occasion. But it is 2019, and our patience grows thin. Your children, your nieces, your nephews, and your neighbours expect private belief to take a backseat to our civic duties to visibly uphold public policies and human rights of inclusion, love, and acceptance.

And as we move forward into our Pride season, I hope that more of us will take up the invitation to be part of this community-building effort, to learn what it means to be an ally to the diverse communities and people around us, and to live up to this requirement of public office.

Thank you.

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