About 80 people gathered at Province House in Halifax on Monday as David Wilson, the provincial minister for communities, culture and heritage, raised the Pride flag outside the provincial legislature to mark Provincial Pride in Nova Scotia, in conjunction with Halifax Pride Week.
Wilson says this is only the second year that the government of Nova Scotia has raised the Pride flag, and that he believes that the province is unique in Canada for raising the flag in front of its legislature.
After a brief welcome on the green outside the legislature, Wilson unfurled the flag and ran it up the pole on the building’s south side, in front of the statue of Joseph Howe, the celebrated pre-confederation premier of Nova Scotia.
Due to weather concerns, the reception was moved indoors to the legislature’s Red Room, where Wilson gave remarks to those gathered.
“Raising the Pride flag today symbolizes that this government supports, recognizes and promotes diversity,” Wilson said. “I encourage all of Nova Scotia to make a more inclusive province all year round, not just during Pride Week.”
During his speech, Wilson elicited some sympathetic chuckles as he struggled on two occasions to pronounce the acronym LGBTI.
“I knew they put it in here a bunch of times,” he said.
Much of Wilson’s speech focused on work the province has done to create a network of public-sector gay and lesbian employees to foster a better environment for the province’s workers.
“Our responsible workplace policy is an effective tool to educate employees and employers about gays and lesbians in the workplace,” he said. “Ensuring that employees feel that they are safe is a priority of the government.”
Later, Wilson told Xtra that he hopes that the government’s decision to proclaim Pride will encourage other communities to be more tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians.
“I hope it sends a signal to communities, to towns and to cities, and to other employers, that we need to recognize and accept the diversity we have in Nova Scotia. That’s what makes up this great province,” he says.
In recent years, the town of Truro, Nova Scotia, has been a flashpoint of gay activism after the mayor and city council refused to declare Pride Week in 2007, then banned all festival proclamations in 2008. In 2009, Truro Mayor Bill Mills turned his attention toward cracking down on gay cruising.
Other local politicians at the flag raising were Halifax Citadel-Sable Island MLA Leonard Preyra, Dartmouth East MLA Richard Younger and opposition leader Stephen McNeil. Wilson extended Premier Darrel Dexter’s regrets, as he was in Vancouver preparing for the first ministers’ conference.