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Pride ‘best festival’ in New Westminster, says city councillor

New West Pride head welcomes rainbow crosswalk and ‘unprecedented’ support

New Westminster celebrated its sixth annual Pride week Aug 8–15, 2015, attracting more than 20,000 attendees, according to event organizers.

“When we put the flag up, we’re not up here talking about what the city is doing for the Pride committee. We’re putting this flag up partly to thank the Pride committee for what you are doing for this city,” said New Westminster councillor Patrick Johnstone at a flag raising ceremony on Aug 10. “In only five years we’ve gone from this little celebration in the rain in Tipperary Park to what is the biggest, the longest and best festival we have in this city every year.”

The 2015 Pride festivities culminated in a street party on Columbia Street featuring rainbow-themed window displays, vendor booths, beer gardens and performances by several acts, including Bif Naked and Amanda Luv.

“We doubled the footprint of the festival, expanded to two stages, had more than twice as many businesses support us under the window display competition, and had an unprecedented level of support from the city with the rainbow crosswalk,” says New West Pride’s president, Jeremy Perry. “All of that just culminated in a festival that’s so much larger than we’ve ever had before.”

On July 27, the City of New Westminster unveiled a permanent rainbow crosswalk at Church and Columbia Streets. The crosswalk was allegedly vandalized with white paint and a 91-year-old man was arrested and taken to hospital for evaluation. New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote told Daily Xtra that he had no further updates on the situation.

But Cote stressed that it was an isolated incident and that most residents support the new crosswalk (which was quickly cleaned up by city staff).

“I really think the response received to this crosswalk is really more emblematic of the progress and the changes that have occurred over the last 15–20 years when it comes to gay and lesbian rights,“ Cote says.

“I’m proud to have served on city council for the last eight years and have seen a lot of great projects,” he continues, “but I’ve never seen such overwhelming support, both in emails and on social media, as I did the day that that crosswalk opened — and to me, I think that’s just reflective of the community we have and how embracing and open New Westminster is.”

New Westminster NDP MLA Judy Darcy describes the community as an inclusive one that respects and promotes diversity at all levels.

“I want to say how wonderful it is to live in a city where the mayor and the city council, and where the school district, are on the frontlines saying, ‘we will not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ people on our streets, in our community or in our school, and we won’t tolerate bullying in any way, shape or form.’”

Darcy reminded Pride attendees, however, that the battle for LGBT equality is not yet over.

“Today we need to especially say that we’re going to keep on pushing, and I commit to that in the Legislature of British Columbia, together with my colleagues, until trans rights are also recognized in the Human Rights Code of the province of British Columbia.“