Wynne launches Pride Week

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As she helped kick off Brockville’s ninth annual Pride celebration, Ontario’s first openly gay premier warned against complacency in the struggle for LGBTQ rights.


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Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was the guest speaker at Monday morning’s raising of the Rainbow Flag to mark the official start of Pride Week 2019.

“We have made huge strides, but please, let’s not pretend that we can’t fall back,” Wynne told a small but determined crowd of supporters shivering under the late-morning rain behind city hall.

Rather than take aim at current Premier Doug Ford, Wynne focused on changes she made to the curriculum before she was even premier, during her time as education minister.

The changes, said Wynne, were meant to introduce the notion of equity in the curriculum and were in direct response to homophobia.

Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks to a soaked crowd as she helps launch Brockville’s Pride Week on a rainy Monday morning. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times)
Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks to a soaked crowd as she helps launch Brockville’s Pride Week on a rainy Monday morning. (RONALD ZAJAC/The Recorder and Times) jpg, BT

When pressed later by media, Wynne did say Ford, whose Progressive Conservatives defeated her Liberal government last year, is beholden to some constituencies that are hostile to LGBTQ rights and there is now a climate in which open homophobia seems more permissible.

That, she added, makes it all the more important to be vigilant about LGBTQ rights.

Wynne brought an incredible presence to the Pride Week launch, said one of the festival’s ardent supporters.

“Having Kathleen Wynne here is significant. She’s definitely a trailblazer,” said city Coun. Leigh Bursey.

“She is the first and only female premier in Ontario history associated with the LGBTQ community and she has been recognized nationally and internationally. She is definitely a trailblazer,” said Bursey.

“It really speaks volumes for her character that she is here. It takes a lot of courage and she is a significant player in the conversation.”


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Bursey acknowledged Wynne’s presence may fire up political resentment that spills over to an anti-pride sentiment that still exists in parts of the community.

But that is just another barb that supporters, including many people like himself who are not part of the LGBTQ community, must struggle to overcome, he said.

In fact, the first pride parade in Brockville nine years ago was organized as a protest against outdated attitudes and prejudice, said Bursey.

“No one was challenging the ignorance at the time,” he said.

“I was never elected to sit on fences and I will always be associated with the event. It’s one of the things I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.”

Bursey said the overt criticism and fear of violence that faced organizers and participants has diminished over time but there remains some distinct resistance in quarters of the community.

“We are here to continue to meet the challenge,” he said, adding that what has since developed as a week-long celebration of the LGBTQ community “continues to create conversation to help people evolve.”

Not only does much of the community now embrace the celebration, it recognizes a substantial economic impact brought to Brockville with Pride Week, added Bursey.

“It has really grown into something beautiful. It’s empowering to see a week-long festival in a rural setting.

“People now see what we’ve been able to accomplish. We’re recognized as one of the most inclusive communities in Ontario. It’s a big change,” added Bursey.


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Other events on the Pride Week calendar Tuesday include a meet and greet starting at 4:30 p.m. at the Spitfire Grill and a Rainbow Glow Party at The Bar beginning at 10 p.m.

On Wednesday, a potluck meal will be served at the Brockville Public Library beginning at 6 p.m. followed by a guest speaker.

The popular Drag Competition for the titles of Ms. Mr. and Mx. Brockville Pride takes place Friday at the Barley Mow beginning at 8 p.m.

After the competition, a pub crawl kicks off at 10 p.m. at participating downtown Brockville bars showing the “Gay Seal of Approval” on their doors.

Saturday’s events start with a five-kilometre Rainbow Run beginning at 10 a.m. at Hardy Park. Participants will finish near the Brockville Rowing Club where they will join others for the 1.5-kilometre Pride Parade starting at noon.

A Rainbow Village and vendor fair will follow, opening at 12:30 p.m. in Hardy Park.

The week concludes with an all-inclusive Sunday service at Wall Street United Church beginning at 8 a.m.

In his first Pride Week address as Brockville mayor, Jason Baker said he is heartened that his seven-year-old daughter is growing up in a more inclusive community than the one in which his 20-year-old daughter grew up.

“That’s progress. That comes back to this festival, in part,” said Baker.

“It’s part of our calendar now.”

With files from Ronald Zajac.

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