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In this Quebec town, they celebrate Pride with chalk rainbows

How an activist from Aylmer got creative to celebrate hometown queer culture

Community members will draw chalk rainbows and write statements in support of Aylmer’s queer community at the sixth annual Chalk Rainbow in Memorial Park on July 30, 2016.

Credit: Courtesy Stephanie Meunier

In the Quebec town of Aylmer, Stephanie Meunier has found a unique way to show her Pride: drawing on the ground in chalk. For six years, she and her friends have been drawing rainbows in Memorial Park to celebrate the local queer community.

Meunier says growing up in Aylmer, tucked into a bend in the Ottawa River inside the city limits of Gatineau, the queer community was sparse. Now 21, when she attended the École Secondaire Grande-Rivière, there was no gay/straight alliance and few other resources for queer students.

(Courtesy Stephanie Meunier)

“I feel like I went to a pretty accepting school,” she says. “But there was nothing to say ‘we’re against homophobia and transphobia and we actually want to celebrate our students who are LGBT.’”

So, Meunier and her friends decided to do something about it. They started with a brief anti-bullying poster campaign in the school. When that was successful, they went on in 2010 to found a family-friendly, annual event that is now called Chalk Rainbow.

“At first it was against homophobia and transphobia, but now it’s more a way to celebrate at home — to celebrate Pride at home,” she says. “We all have to go to Ottawa to do anything for Pride, so it’s kind of a way to see our friends and families represented in the town square.”

Meunier and other organizers — Devin Perry, Isabelle Barrieau-Garneau and Patrick Papineau — will host the sixth annual Chalk Rainbow in Memorial Park on July 30, 2016. Over the afternoon, they say, anyone is welcome to drop by and use their colourful chalk to draw rainbows and write statements in support of Aylmer’s queer community.

Organizers also hope people will help assemble a chalk timeline of Canadian queer history.

“I think a lot of people, especially young people, don’t realize all of the violence that people go through, and that it’s been this way or worse for a very long time,” Meunier says. “I think it’s important to let people understand why the struggle is important.”

(Courtesy Stephanie Meunier)

Organizers will also hand out educational materials for people to take home. They also encourage people to bring food for a potluck lunch.

Meunier says the event has been well-received by the community so far. The only challenges are paying for material — the four organizers pay for most of the food and supplies themselves — and getting the word out.