For a decade the city of Moncton has led the way for Pride celebrations across New Brunswick. As organizers mark a milestone anniversary this week, the founding fathers of Moncton Pride are polishing their shoes to march as grand marshals in the annual parade.
One summer night, a little more than 10 years ago, Greg Daborn and Art Vautour-Toole struck up a conversation at Moncton’s only gay bar, Triangles, venting their frustrations about travelling hundreds of kilometres from home to celebrate Pride.
Enough was enough, they said, it was time to put their words into action. Joining forces with a third organizer, Denis Lanteinge, Moncton saw its first Pride weekend in June 2000.
“We’ve come a long way over the years,” says Pride spokesperson Paul Leblanc.
The event started off small, he says, adding people were quite comfortable going elsewhere to celebrate their orientation, but some weren’t so keen on celebrating at home. Even some organizers were reluctant to get the word out to the greater community.
“Back then,” he says, “people were scared to approach certain media. Now we have media coming to us.”
Over the past decade, attendance and participation numbers have risen steadily.
The planning efforts have also grown and evolved. There is now a 10-person committee — known as River of Pride — to share the workload and a movement over the last two years towards incorporating Pride and becoming a charitable organization.
A number of big-name sponsors are already supporting the events this year, but the charitable organization status, he says, will hopefully bring in more corporate dollars.
A major part of this process will see the committee form an executive and sub-committees. Getting people to volunteer has always been an issue, he says, because structure was lacking.
“The biggest complaint was the time people spent at meetings. There was no order, there was no structure. So we’ve refined all of this and from here forward it’s going to be much more attractive for people to become involved.”
Moncton is at the heart of the Maritimes, he says, and while River of Pride hopes to attract attendees from all over the region, the celebration needs to remain community focussed. One of the big goals for Pride 2009 is to unite queer and queer-friendly groups and services around greater Moncton.
River of Pride will hold a community forum on Fri, Aug 21 to discuss the possibility of forming a network of interested organizations. Leblanc is particularly proud of confirmed involvement from a number of labour unions.
Cherie MacLeod, the executive director of Pflag Canada, will be the moderator for the meeting, which begins at 1pm in the sixth floor training room at Moncton City Hall.
Pride will use the motto “Your rights, our rights, human rights!” for this year’s celebration, Leblanc says, pointing out the dual 40-year anniversaries of the Stonewall riots and the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.
River of Pride wants events to be all-inclusive, he says. In an official press release, he writes, “These events are organized on behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and groups, and all others who support the struggle for the rights of these communities.”
Moncton Pride 2009 runs through Sun, Aug. 23. For a full schedule of events, visit Fiertemonctonpride.ca.