It wasn’t long ago that pride parades and demonstrations, now large scale celebrations, were more political in nature, more of a protest against legal issues and the treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in society.
Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca and the NDP’s critic for LGBT issues, says the community has taken progressive leaps forward, but there’s still work to be done.
“As that political and legal agenda has decreased, I think the importance of the visibility part has increased,” said Garrison. “I think the biggest and best protection against homophobia is people being visible, and I think pride plays a very big part in that.”
Over the years he has seen firsthand the event grow and evolve into what now attracts thousands of people of all sexualities and backgrounds, and has become as much a community celebration as it is a statement. Garrison said when he was on Esquimalt council (2008-2011) it was the first council in the region to take part in Victoria’s pride parade, something many councils now do.
“That’s all quite positive, since there are queer people everywhere,” Garrison said.
In his political role Garrison is still working hard on gender issues. His private member’s bill has been through second reading and has gone to committee. The bill’s aim is to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to specifically include gender identity and expression.
Of all the groups included in the LGBT community, Garrison said it is the transgendered community that still faces the most misunderstanding, intolerance and hate crimes. This bill would remove legal grey areas for transgendered people, and would add gender identity and expression to the hate crimes section of the criminal code.
“It would remove any ambiguity and put transgendered people on the same legal basis as everyone else in the Human Rights Code,” Garrison said.
With the support of 15 Conservative Party members, Garrison is optimistic the bill will pass, although some compromises may have to be made at the committee level.
Anti-bullying is another issue that Garrison and his colleagues will be pursuing, along with pushing the government to take more of a stand internationally when it comes to LGBT rights. There are still more than 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Garrison and his partner are involved in many of the pride events going on in Victoria this week, including the Cabar-GAY opener, the Big Gay Dog Walk, Pride and the Word, and the pride parade.
“It’s as important as any other human rights issue and I’ve always argued that the rights for my community are basic human rights. They’re not special rights, we’re just wanting to enjoy the same rights as everybody else.”
Pride Week events
• Big Gay Dog Walk – 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. – Dallas Road at Cook Street – This fun pride event gives four-legged friends the opportunity to support the cause. Dog owners of all genders and sexualities will come together for this simple, fun daytime event with their best friends.
•Pride Parade – Noon – The big event starts at Government Street and Pandora Avenue and works its colourful, proud way towards the legislature, finishing up at MacDonald Park in James Bay. Come out, see the spectacle and support the cause. And hey, everyone loves a parade.
• Pride Festival – 1 p.m. – MacDonald Park – After the parade, the fun kicks off at MacDonald Park with this culmination of the week. Food, drinks, entertainment, a kids zone and events will all be happening in celebration and recognition of the LGBT community.
For more info visit victoriapridesociety.org.