Rainbow flags were flying high as Ottawa’s celebration of everything queer culminated Sunday, Aug 26 with the Capital Pride parade.
Thousands of enthusiastic spectators lined the parade route, which began at the Garden of Provinces and ended at city hall. The procession was led by grand marshal T Eileen Murphy, who rode in a classic maroon 1983 Buick Riviera convertible.
Some onlookers dressed in vividly coloured rubber gear, while others almost bared it all. Everyone agreed this year’s parade was more inclusive than in years past. Additionally, the ages of supporters ran the gamut from eight months to 85.
Ronald Carrière took notice of the bridge that is built across the generation gap each year at Pride. Carrier has attended the parade for 10 years and says this unity between youth and elders is remarkable.
“It’s great to see the younger people and the older people getting together and celebrate Pride. It makes it a fun gathering,” he says.
Twenty-year-old Eric Vance was experiencing his first Pride and admitted he had only recently come out of the closet.
“I’ve never been to a Pride before. I want to see what it’s all about,” he says.
At the other end of the spectrum, an 85-year-old who gave his name as Bud, says he was marching with the Senior Pride Network because he wants everyone to know he’s proud to be queer.
“I’m happy to be marching because today I can be gay and let everybody know it,” Bud says.
Justine Nadeau has attended the Capital Pride parade for the last seven years and brought her children along to watch the parade pass by. She hopes her kids will see that the world is quickly changing.
“It’s important that they know that love is not only between a man and a woman, which is what they usually teach in schools,” Nadeau says. “I had to break that cycle for them; love is love.”
Nadeau added that she keeps coming back every year because it’s the one day in our city when everyone can feel like they belong.
A sense of belonging is the precise reason Vibeke Vale makes the trek to Ottawa from Brighton, Ontario, each year. Vale says queers in her small town are scared to be out and seldom acknowledge each other in public.
“Here everybody acknowledges one another. That’s the part that I love,” Vale says. “It’s the one time of year that I feel really gay. That’s why I come. I love that everybody can come together. It’s the one day that we don’t have to hide in our homes.”
As the NDP critic on LGBT issues, MP Randall Garrison encourages any Canadian queer to never hide their sexuality as, he says, visibility is our strongest weapon against discrimination.
“The best protection and the best way we can get more equality in Canada is by being out wherever we are. Pride is a really important part of that,” Garrison says.
Garrison says Capital Pride has grown exponentially in recent years and is now representative of more than just gay men. Garrison added he’s looking forward to seeing Bill C-279 passed in the House of Commons so transgender Canadians will have equal rights at the federal level.
This year’s diverse group of marchers included members of the Anglican church, PFLAG, Amnesty International Canada and trans support and social group Gender Mosaic. Gender Mosaic’s treasurer, Kay Lockhart, says the group’s members are proud to be part of Capital Pride, even though they don’t identify as gay.
“As a trans group, Gender Mosaic is part of the alphabet soup that is GBLT, et cetera. So it is important to show that, although we are not homosexual, or no more so than the general population, we are still queer as in the old sense of the word,” Lockhart says.
A steadfast supporter of human rights, Yasir Naqvi is a champion of the queer community in every sense. Naqvi marched in the parade among a strong Liberal contingent. The Ottawa-Centre MPP played a pivotal role in the passage of Bill 13, ensuring GSAs will be allowed in every Ontario school, and says the implementation of Toby’s Act, the provincial trans right bill, is a reason for all queers to celebrate.
“This year Pride has a special meaning,” he says with a smile.
A handful of religious detractors holding wooden crosses camped out on Laurier Ave; however, police officers onsite told Xtra there were no incidents to report.
View Laura Zahody and Ben Welland’s parade photos below.