New Westminster, BC’s oldest city, will stage its first ever gay Pride Day Aug 7.
Gay resident Vance McFadyen, supported by his partner Curt Higham and several straight allies, successfully lobbied New Westminster’s city council Jan 25 to have a Pride Day proclaimed in the city.
The council vote was unanimous in favour of having the event.
An official proclamation will likely not be made until July, prior to the celebrations.
In his presentation to council, McFadyen, a 23-year resident of New West, said the city’s gay community doesn’t need any special funding or considerations. Community members just want to celebrate who they are and their commitment to both the gay community and the wider city, he explained.
“Some may question why gay citizens feel the need for a special day like Pride Day. I believe the reason is primarily to promote trust, understanding and tolerance, and to demonstrate our values to society at large,” McFadyen told the council.
Higham points to Vancouver’s annual Pride parade as the inspiration that prompted him and McFadyen to pursue something similar in New West.
For Vancouver Pride, the couple traditionally set up a sidewalk scene, complete with chesterfield couch, area rug and lamps.
“We get there early, at nine in the morning, and have coffee on the couch,” Higham says. “And we’re [sitting there] thinking, ‘We should do something like this in New Westminster.’”
Now with city approval for a Pride Day, the couple, who’ve been married for seven years, have their wish.
City councillor Lorrie Williams says she recognizes the gay population as an important part of the New West community. Although council received some community backlash prior to the vote, Williams doesn’t believe it’s enough to hinder Pride from becoming an annual event.
“I don’t see why not — I mean, if two letters is all we’re going to get in opposition. I’d vote for it even if we got 100 letters,” asserts Williams, who officiated at McFadyen’s marriage in 2003.
While McFadyen has no plans of pursuing an annual Pride Day, he hopes it becomes a fixture in the future.
“I would like to see it evolve into an annual event, however I may not be the person that spearheads it,” he says. “That’s why I chose one year only, to see how successful it is and how well the gay community itself responds to the events that we’re going to plan.”
The slate of Pride events will include a party at the gay-friendly Heritage Grill, as well as a softball tournament to be held the following weekend.
Guy Dubé, a gay resident and owner of the Coming Home Café, says he will also take part in the celebrations.
“Vance has approached me to do events for Pride. We’ll probably have poetry readings, guitarists — all the smaller events.”
Dubé, who says he’s never experienced homophobia in New West, is glad to see more openly gay events in the city.
“One thing that bothered me was that the only place that was queer-friendly was my café. I think what’s happening now is that there’s more spaces to go.”
Some feel that New West’s gay community is actually growing.
“There are couples in Queens Park, couples in Queenborough and the Moody Park area, which is where we live,” says McFadyen. “It’s growing noticeably. Just walking down the street, it’s noticeable now.”