A rainbow flag, carrying a lot of meaning with it, was raised on the grounds of Nanaimo City Hall today.
The Pride flag went up after a ceremony Tuesday evening, marking the start of Pride Week in Nanaimo.
Alessandro Iachelli, Nanaimo Pride Society president, previewed the schedule of events for the week, which will culminate with a parade and festival downtown on Sunday. He said it’s been a 12-month effort to prepare for what will be larger-scale celebrations this year.
“The overwhelming amount of outpouring from people in the community has been just unbelievable and it’s personally touched me,” said Iachelli.
The flag-raising ceremony included speeches from dignitaries including Mayor Leonard Krog, MLAs Sheila Malcolmson and Doug Routley, as well as Ilan Goldenblatt, representing MP Paul Manly. More than one speaker referenced the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots led by transgender and drag activists, considered foundational in the LGBTQ rights movement.
Krog read out an official Pride Week declaration and suggested Nanaimo has come a long way.
“This community is a better town than it used to be. This community is more welcoming; this community is more accepting,” Krog said. “This community welcomes and accepts diversity and takes it to heart in a way that simply didn’t exist a while ago and I think that’s a really positive thing.”
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Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA, gave examples of recent progress such as human rights advancements, sexual orientation and gender identity resources in schools, and improved access to HIV medication.
“Keep the pressure on us, keep us accessible; we stand with you in solidarity but we’re also taking action and we’re getting it done so that everybody can live a safe and dignified and respectful life equally,” she said.
The ceremony featured musical performances by the Aviva Chorus and rocker Tami Nutting and while the choir was singing, a passing motorist appeared to purposefully try to cause an interruption with engine noise.
“The ignorance that that guy showed with that truck and all of that, that isn’t the biggest threat to us – it’s complacency, amongst those people who would care and should care and should speak up and should do better…” Routley said. “You don’t have to understand. You just have to respect and allow people to be who they are and I think that’s what it’s all about.”