When Halifax Pride put out a public call for nominations for this year’s Pride marshal, one name was repeated over and over amongst the submissions: Scott Jones.
Jones was attacked in New Glasgow last October by Shane Edward Matheson, who in June was sentenced to 10 years in prison for stabbing Jones in the back, slashing his throat and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Though the injury to his throat proved to be superficial, the stabbing severed his spinal cord.
Police haven’t called the incident a hate crime, but Jones and many of his friends have no doubt that he was attacked because he’s openly gay.
At Matheson’s sentencing hearing on June 12, Jones read a victim impact statement in which he offered his attacker forgiveness.
“When you have that love around you and you consider someone who hasn’t had that love around him at all, his whole life, I think it’s pretty easy to arrive at forgiveness,” he read. “Shane, nothing can justify what you’ve done to me, but I forgive you for what you have done.”
Jones and his courage have inspired support across the country and even internationally. His Don’t Be Afraid campaign has garnered a particularly strong response in Nova Scotia. According to the campaign’s Facebook page, it’s dedicated to “dissolving the fear surrounding homophobia and promoting a deeper level of acceptance of all human beings.”
The logo, co-conceptualized by Jones, offers people a colourful way to protest hate. People from various places around the world have sent in hundreds of photos of themselves holding the sign.
Jones is not accepting interview requests at this time. According to Halifax Pride chair Ramona Westgate, he is focusing on his recovery but is very much looking forward to attending Pride.
“He is genuinely surprised by the degree of support he has received,” Westgate says. “Scott is a very humble young man and he was very honoured at the request.”
Westgate appreciates the awareness campaign Jones helped launch. “What Don’t Be Afraid has done is allow people to have conversations about homophobia and give them an opportunity to explore their feelings without judgment,” she says.
Westgate was at an InterPride conference in Montreal when she first heard of Jones’s attack. “We were shocked, and it brought it home to us why we were there,” she says.
Westgate applauds the efforts Jones has made since his attack, including the forgiveness he offered his attacker. “He’s such a courageous young man.”
This year’s Halifax Pride festival runs Thursday, July 17, to Sunday, July 27, with the parade on Saturday, July 26.