It was proudly announced Thursday, June 21 that prolific queer activist and volunteer T Eileen Murphy will act as grand marshal for this year’s Capital Pride festivities, where the theme will be Come out and Play.
Capital Pride chair Loresa Novy
made the announcement at the media launch at city hall. Mayor Jim Watson
and Ottawa-Centre MPP Yasir Naqvi
were also in attendance.
Murphy’s contributions to Ottawa’s queer community span more than 40 years of intense involvement, including working with organizations such as Bruce House, PTS, Egale and the Ottawa Women’s Centre.
moved to Ottawa in the late 1960s to attend Algonquin College and quickly immersed herself in the gay and lesbian scene, co-founding Dignity Ottawa, an organization for queer Catholics.
She is currently working with the Senior Pride Network and the Ottawa Police GLBT liaison committee.
Murphy’s tireless efforts were rewarded in 2010, when she received Xtra’s Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award.
When Murphy took to the podium to address the crowd, she spoke of her optimism for the future of queer Ottawans.
“Things will be better tomorrow. Things can be better tomorrow and will be as long as we don’t forget our struggle to be here,” Murphy says. “Laws can be changed, not the offenders. So let’s not forget anything and still work hard.”
Murphy’s partner of 29 years, Kathi Sansom
, also received Xtra
’s Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2006. Sansom died from kidney disease in 2008.
Murphy told Xtra that for many years she and Sansom attended Capital Pride festivities yet were forced to watch from the sidelines, as Sansom’s career could have been jeopardized by publicly participating in queer celebrations.
“My partner was working for a law firm which had no benefits, no retirement and no union. She could have been fired if they found out. So we decided to keep it quiet, because she was raising a family and felt she needed to not participate. We became the best Pride watchers. Every year we’d go with our lawn chairs and our lunch and watch the Pride parade. We would participate but out of the media.”
Murphy says she is honoured and very proud to act as this year’s grand marshal.
Capital Pride’s board, meanwhile, is very proud of the fact that they are steadily paying down the festival’s debt. Novy couldn’t go into the specifics of just how much debt Capital Pride has accumulated but did say the innovation of running their own cash bar is pushing down the total.
Board director and community relations chair Joanne Law
says Capital Pride is inching closer to a debt-free festival.
“We’ve always paid our money back to the city at a designated amount that the city and Capital Pride negotiated several years ago,” Law says. “It’s going to be a couple of more years [until the debt is completely absolved] — at least two or three.”
Mayor Watson complemented the Capital Pride board members for their tireless efforts and congratulated MPP Naqvi for his work surrounding Bill 13
, the Liberals’ Accepting Schools Act, and Bill 33
, which amends the Human Rights Code with respect to gender identity and gender expression.
“This is the power of one individual,” Watson says. “People say you have to be a cabinet minister, you have to be the premier to do that. Yasir Naqvi has proven to be a very effective MPP; thank you for those two pieces of legislation.”
Naqvi noted that he was not solely responsible for the bills’ passage and pointed to Law as a pillar of strength and determination. “Here’s someone who for 30 years now has been talking about the rights of the trans community in Canada,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot from Joanne. I’m extremely proud to be a member of the community and to say that Ontario is one more step closer to being a very equal society, definitely a leader in human rights around the world.”
Capital Pride is still seeking dedicated volunteers. To volunteer and get the rundown of all the performers and attractions comprising this year’s party, visit Capital Pride’s official site
Friday, Aug 17-Sunday, Aug 26