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Capital Pride parade runs through official Village for first time

Plight of gays around the world recurring theme for many participants

Grand marshal Jay Koornstra waves to spectators. Credit: Ben Welland

Bank Street’s sidewalks overflowed with cheering spectators as the Capital Pride (CP) parade travelled through Ottawa’s officially designated gay village for the first time, Aug 25.

Village committee president Ian Capstick says that the parade — estimated to be the largest Ottawa Pride parade yet — travelling through the Village is “incredibly exciting” and that he hopes “it’s the beginning of many awesome things to come.”

Spectator Mike Hutton remembers the first official Capital Pride parade, in 1985, when only 300 marchers took part.

“There was a lot of discrimination, and we were in the middle of the AIDS epidemic,” Hutton says. “So we needed things like the Pride parade and the Gay Men’s Chorus just to lift spirits in the community.”

Canadian gays and lesbians enjoy relative equality, but gay people in some parts of the world are still persecuted, Hutton points out. He encourages Canadians to contact embassies of countries that persecute gays and sponsor refugees to come to our country.

Centretown Community Health Centre board president Jeff Morrison says this year’s recurring emphasis on the plight of gays around the world demonstrates the “vibrancy” of our community.

“It shows the engagement of the Ottawa GLBT community. We just don’t care about how things are here at home; we care about the rights of gays and lesbians around the world.”

Corrine Davison, of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s (OCDSB) inclusive, safe and caring programs, believes the plight of gay people around the world will be included in the curriculum someday.

The OCDSB once again turned a yellow bus into a float and had rainbow flags specially made with OCDSB’s logo emblazoned on them. The 200-strong contingent included everyone from director of education Jennifer Adams to teachers and custodians.

“There’s so much more to being part of the GLBTQ community than simply who we are attracted to, who we want to be with or even our own gender,” Davison says. “This is about community; this is about family. This is about being naturally comfortable with who we are.”

Ryan Stec stood on the sidelines with his child hoisted on his shoulders. He says he watches to “celebrate diversity” as a proud ally.

“We live right down the street, so it’s a part of our community. It’s so nice to see so many people out for it.”

Grand marshal Jay Koornstra said he saw more unity and less community segmentation during this year’s Pride celebrations.

“I want people to study the history and ask themselves, ‘Do you want to go back there?’ If not, let’s move forward and take the rest of the world with us,” he said.

“We need to be loud and proud and show the world that Canada is accepting,” he continued. “I’m thrilled with that global focus because we need to be reminded that we are very fortunate to have a country that accepts us as equal citizens.”

For more on the parade, watch Daily Xtra’s video coverage and view a slideshow of parade photos