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Halifax Pride 2009 celebrates many firsts

New this year: sex workers, city funds and premier's participation

Xtra.ca was at Halifax Pride this past weekend. The parade — celebrating its 22nd anniversary this year — followed a week of events, including a new queer theatre festival, parties and concerts.

Check out these photos by our Halifax contributor Shannon Webb-Campbell!

This year’s Pride celebrated a number of historic firsts.

In June, the Halifax Regional Council voted unanimously to make the Halifax Pride Festival a Hallmark Event in recognition of the hard work done by the Pride Committee and to mark the importance of the queer community in the life of the city. Along with a $25,000 award towards the festivities, the Hallmark status places Halifax Pride on the same level as other prestigious events such as the Jazz Festival. This official acknowledgement is a giant step forward from the first Pride parade which happened 21 years ago in the port city at a time when there were no legal protections and little support for queer rights.

Another first was the inclusion this year of sex workers in the Pride parade. Organized by Rene Ross of Stepping Stone, a lively contingent of sex workers proudly took their place among the other celebrants in the march on Saturday afternoon. Stepping Stone is a not-for-profit organization that offers supportive programs and outreach to women, men and trans sex workers and former sex workers. Their continuing struggle against stereotypes and discrimination fits very well with this year’s Pride theme of Breaking Down Walls and Building Bridges.

And, for the very first time in the history of the capital city, the premier of the province of Nova Scotia participated in the Pride parade. Newly-elected Darrell Dexter, leader of the provincial NDP, beamed and waved at the estimated crowd of 70,000 people as the parade made its way along the city’s major streets. The New Democratic Party has been a long time supporter of queer rights in the province.  Former federal NDP leader Alexa McDonough joined the very first marchers over two decades ago.

Forty years after Stonewall, this year’s Halifax Pride events were a chance to joyfully commemorate the advances made in the intervening years and to take further historic steps forward.