The Pride party has started in Nanaimo.
The Nanaimo Pride Parade was held downtown Saturday afternoon, with the festivities continuing at Maffeo Sutton Park.
Justin Capson, a board member with the Nanaimo Pride Society, said the parade featured around 55 entries, up from 38 last year.
“It’s a good turnout. It feels good,” he said. “Nanaimo’s changing, you know what I mean? The feeling of diversity.”
Rick Meyers, president of the Pride society, echoed that sentiment as he took the stage, dressed as Vikki Smudge, to welcome the community.
“I’m born and raised in this town and let me tell you, growing up, sometimes it wasn’t pretty,” he said. “Not as pretty as it is today.”
There were brief speeches from politicians including Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Sheila Malcolmson, who noted it wasn’t that long ago that Nanaimo city hall refused to fly the pride flag, whereas now there are four pride crosswalks downtown.
“The emblems and the symbols are important, but we have serious work to do on the federal legislation side in order to put those good intentions to order,” she said, pointing to discriminatory blood donation policies, and also suggesting Canada can do more to help gay Chechen refugees who have faced persecution in Russia.
Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA, said he’s seen that people can change and become kinder and more accepting of one another.
“Events like this bring us all up. They evolve the community. They challenge hatred and they celebrate love,” he said.
Mayor Bill McKay suggested the city has come a long way as far as embracing Pride.
“2000, there was no way that the mayor at the time was ever going to sign a proclamation for Pride. 2016, 2017, I am absolutely honoured to sign the proclamation,” he said. “It’s Pride Week, everyone … let’s get this party started.”
A pride after-party will be held tonight (June 10) starting at 10 p.m. at Evolve Nightclub. The celebrations continue next weekend (June 16-17) with a youth pride dance at the German Cultural Centre at 7 p.m. Friday, a comedy night at Old City Station Pub Friday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., a pet parade Saturday at 10:15 a.m. at Maffeo Sutton Park and a Pride dance featuring Queer as Funk at Beban Park social centre on Saturday at 8 p.m.