Saanich has raised the iconic rainbow flag at municipal hall for the first time, and the sentiment from the LGBTQ community is that it’s about time.
The Pride flag went up June 30, and will represent Saanich’s support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community throughout Pride Week until July 10.
It’s part of a lurch forward for Saanich, which is catching up with the City of Victoria in terms of Pride Week involvement, says Coun. Colin Plant.
Members of Saanich council and the LGBTQ subcommittee will also partake in Sunday’s Pride parade, which is an official first for Saanich.
“Raising the flag, starting an LGBTQ subcommittee and carrying a banner [in the parade] are the symbolic gestures for a big step forward for Saanich,” Plant said.
The subcommittee is currently running a survey as it works to create a needs assessment for Saanich, through an LGBTQ lens.
“The subcommittee might not be around forever, but the needs assessment it’s doing for Saanich will be its legacy,” Plant said.
Cynthia Reid is a lifelong Saanich resident and a career nurse who is on the newly created LGBTQ subcommittee.
There are too many things that happen in Saanich without looking at them through an LGBTQ lens, even if just a brief look, she said.
“Look at the new washroom along the Gorge Park walkway, I can’t believe it has [traditional] male and female signs [in 2016]. The labelling of the washrooms is an old conservative thought process, we’ve got to be more inclusive than that.”
In saying that, Reid added washrooms aren’t a big deal for some but public washrooms can cause stress for members of the LGBTQ committee.
Reid joined the LGBTQ subcommittee when it formed earlier in 2016 under Plant’s lead. In addition to the needs assessment the committee led Saanich to proclaim March 31 the first-ever Trans Day of Visibility.
The needs assessment is being done in partnership with Royal Roads University. The subcommittee is seeking public guidance on improving support and resources for LGBTQ residents in Saanich.
“I went to Dalhousie University [in Halifax] where they’d already had co-ed showers and bathroom stalls for 10 years, so we’re a little behind overall,” said Harvey Howse, who will miss the Pride Parade as she continues research for her neuroscience masters degree at UVic.
“We need to better focus resources to make changes to suit what the Saanich community needs,” Howse said.
This year’s Pride Week kicked off with the memorial dragball game on July 1, followed by nine days of various events, 120 vendors and a beer garden for 1,800 people. It wraps up with the big party this weekend. The always-colourful Pride parade has 110 entries, and leads up to Sunday’s festival. People from all walks of life are encouraged to walk the parade route. Organizers are expecting to draw 10,000 people to the festival at MacDonald Park, which will feature two stages of entertainment, a kids’ camp and newly added Queer Town.
Saanich also reminds its citizens that the LGBTQ subcommittee is looking to the public for guidance on improving support and resources for LGBTQ residents. The survey is online at royalroads.fluidsurveys.com/s/LGBTQSaanich/. There are also comment boxes posted at Saanich rec centres and in the Pride Centre in UVic’s Student Union Building.
The survey runs until July 30 and the results will be posted in the fall.