A Pride parade is happening in Duncan this Sunday, and organizers say all are welcome to watch or even participate in the spectacle fostering acceptance.
The Cowichan Pride Society (CPS) is hosting the parade, which is set to envelop the city’s streets starting at 11 a.m. near Vancouver Island University (VIU) and ending at Duncan City Square for a big festival celebration.
The society promotes awareness, inclusion, visibility and celebration of the region’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and its president Teresa Stebbing says the event comes at a vital time.
“Pride has always been important,” said Stebbing.
“It’s really important for people to be able to see themselves, see their lives reflected, realize they are not alone and see that celebrated. That is really affirming, and it’s a really powerful piece of it,” she told CHEK News.
“Unfortunately, in recent years, recent months even, there has been an unfortunate increase in hate of all kinds. Certainly, our community has been a target, as well as others. Locally, across Canada and across North America.”
Earlier in June, a man made headlines after a mother said he interrupted a track meet to wrongly suggest her nine-year-old daughter was transgender. About a week prior, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.
Ahead of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, CHEK News spoke with Olivia Baker, program manager with Fondation Émergence, a Montreal-based non-profit fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
The group launched a campaign acknowledging the harm LGBTQphobias — negative attitudes, actions or words toward sexually and gender-diverse people — can cause and worked with Leger to survey Canadian’s feelings towards LGBTQ+ people.
“LGBTQphobias are dangerous for people, and the people who suffer the most from LGBTQphobias are the LGBTQ+ people who are victim from those kinds of erasure or harassment,” said Baker.
In B.C. specifically, 37 per cent of respondents said they didn’t care or didn’t understand the importance of LGBTQ+ issues, while 53 per cent said we as a society talk too much about LGBTQ+ people.
‘We’re people just like everybody else’
For Stebbing, it’s stats like these that underscore the importance of Pride. Elsewhere on Vancouver Island, Nanaimo’s Pride Parade happened on June 11, while Victoria’s parade is scheduled for July 9.
“It’s more than a party,” she said.
“There are people out there who feel that they don’t have any choices, some people are feeling suicidal over the lack of acceptance in society. It’s really important that those people who are out there really alone, feeling marginalized, feeling desperate, that they know they are not alone. And that they realize there’s nothing wrong with them.
“We’re people just like everybody else.”
Stebbing says preparations for the upcoming Duncan parade have been underway since last year.
“We’ve been planning for a little while,” she said. “We’ve had wonderful support from the community. It’s been really, really encouraging.”
People looking to walk in the parade are invited to gather at 10:30 a.m. at VIU’s parking lot on University Way, while spectators can line the route ready to cheer.
“We’re going to have a wonderful blessing from an Indigenous elder at 11 o’clock, and then we’re going to get started with our march going along Duncan Street, across Trunk Road and down Canada Avenue, Station Street and ending up downtown,” said Stebbing.
“Once we all arrive at City Square, we had a great entertainment program. There are going to be drag performers, live music and vendors set up, great community information, swag to buy and some food trucks as well.
“It’s going to be a great fun event.”
More details about the event are on CPS’ Facebook page.