4 min

Vancouver Pride StandOut awards announce 2018 Pride grand marshals

Squamish councillor, archivist and sign language teacher among honourees

Zoée Montpetit (not pictured, award accepted on Montpetit’s behalf), Orene Askew, Serene Carter, Alex Sangha and Marisa Pahl are among the winners of the 2018 StandOut awards. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra

An LGBT archivist and the crew of an Indigenous youth-led documentary will head the Vancouver Pride parade as grand marshals, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) announced during the StandOut awards on May 24.

Ron Dutton, a retired librarian, has personally collected over 750,000 documents related to BC’s LGBT community dating back to the 1700s. A team of Indigenous youth led by William Flett produced the short film A Mile in our Moccasins, examining HIV stigma and discrimination.

A third grand marshal will be announced in coming days.

In a departure from previous years, the VPS left behind the traditional award ceremony format, and hosted a cocktail party-inspired ceremony at a local hotel.

“This year we wanted more of a party vibe,” explained Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Michelle Fortin, adding that the change follows community input and recent budgetary constraints.

The society is struggling with a deficit that forced it to cancel the popular Davie Street Party for this year’s Pride celebration.

Here are the winners of this year’s StandOut Awards:

Alex Sangha

Business Leader

“Anything is possible if we work together in the business community,” said Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha. “I think all parts of society need to support each other. This includes queer businesses.”

Sher Vancouver has provided counseling for South Asians and immigrants who identify as LGBT since 2008, and hosts a monthly peer support group for queer South Asian youth.

This isn’t the first time Sangha has been recognized by the Vancouver Pride Society; he was a grand marshal in the 2016 parade.

Alex Sangha is the founder of Sher Vancouver. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra

Jeremy Dias


Jeremy Dias lives in Ottawa and couldn’t make the award ceremony, but the executive director at the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity said by video that his award was “not just a celebration of workshops and presentations or conferences, but a celebration of our culture, our community and our history.”

The centre promotes diversity in gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation nationally through services in education, health and advocacy.

Last week the Ottawa-based advocacy group announced it will build Canada’s first LGBT museum.

Jeremy Dias is the executive director for the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Credit: Courtesy Jeremy Dias

Zoée Montpetit

Social Activist

Zoée Montpetit is the founder of Queer ASL, a group that introduces American Sign Language and Deaf culture to queer and transgender learners in Vancouver.

Montpetit founded the group in 2009 when she found herself the only signing Deaf queer in the Victoria LGBT community. Today, Queer ASL is based in Vancouver and offers three levels of classes taught by Deaf queer and trans people.

“The very heart of Queer ASL is all about social justice and we are beyond honoured to accept this social activist award,” Montpetit said in a message.

Queer ASL founder Zoée Montpetit’s (not pictured) award was accepted on Montpetit’s behalf. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra

Marisa Pahl

Friend of the Environment

The friend of the environment award, only in its second year, went to visual artist Marisa Pahl, who recently spoke to 50 environmental advocates and created a painting based on each story for a project called Future Oceans.

“I think the thing I’m most excited about is that this is a category that is recognized by the Vancouver Pride Society,” said Pahl. “It’s exciting to build more connections between environmental advocacy and [the LGBTQ] community.”

As a child Pahl dreamed of becoming an environmental lawyer or a marine biologist, but her time spent exploring other countries and wild places led her to instead pursue a career in art with an environmental twist.

“There is a lot of work to be done to make the outdoor community and environmental advocacy more inclusive of queer and Indigenous voices,” she said.

Marisa Pahl won the friend of the environment award. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra

Serene Carter

Youth Award

Serene Carter is only 19, but she’s already working hard to create a better world for queer people of colour. She works for Out in Schools as a youth facilitator and talks to young people across the province about sexual orientation and gender identity policies and how to create inclusive classroom spaces.

“This award is a testament of how important it is to radically resist the prescribed outcomes for queer and trans youth of colour,” Carter said.

“It feels amazing to be acknowledged. And I think it’s a real testament to young queer youth of colour, and how our lives and stories are vital to queer spaces.”

Serene Carter won the Youth Award for her work as a facilitator for LGBT youth. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra

Orene Askew (DJ O Show)

Kimberly Nixon Trans, Two-Spirit, Gender Non-Conforming Contribution to Community Award

Orene Askew, also known as DJ O Show, was elected to the Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council in December as one of its youngest members. In a major turnover, Askew is one of eight new councillors under age 40, and one of two who identify as LGBT.

“I’m in shock right now,” Askew said, as she stepped up to receive her award.

Askew also announced that the Squamish Nation will display its first Pride float through this year’s parade. Askew was not shy to take the credit for the float:

“There is a float because of me. I brought the idea to the table and the other councillors were very supportive,” she said. “We have a lot of LGBTQ people in our community and they feel voiceless, so I’m glad I’m at the table because I feel like I’m a voice for them.”

Askew is a DJ and motivational speaker who works with Indigenous youth.

“It feels amazing to be included,” she said. “That’s all we want. We want to be included and to be at the table. People’s acknowledgment of the territories is great, but now they are actually starting to work with us.”

Orene Askew won the Kimberly Nixon Trans, Two-Spirit, Gender Non-Conforming Contribution to Community Award. Credit: Angelika Kagan/Xtra