While there was a small minority in the community that voiced loud opposition to Abbotsford Mayor & Council, it seemed that many more in the community supported council’s decision to go ahead and proudly fly the PRIDE flag for the week of July 13 – 19, 2015. Did it really matter?
For a lot of people, their identity is not something that makes them subject to violence, daily affronts against their dignity, and denial of basic human rights. On the other hand, for people with minority sexual and gender identities (including lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer, two-spirit and trans* identities and more – LGBTQ+), the fight for equitable human rights in Canada and worldwide continues to be a decades-long struggle.
After the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, when residents fought back against police brutality, the seventies started off the United States and Canada’s ‘civil rights movement’ for gay communities. Since 1978, the jubilant rainbow flying high has been a triumphant symbol of justice and dignity. A flag represents a group of people and collective power, the power to make change. Read here about how the Rainbow became a symbol of gay pride.
Because of a lack of social inclusion and experiences of discrimination and violence, LGBTQ+ individuals face more risks than our peers. A recent report explains that LGBT youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than heterosexual peers, and LGBT+ adults have higher rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidality. In contrast, key ways to deal with these challenges include creating supportive neighbourhoods, inclusive workplaces, and space for community-building among LGBTQ+ communities – exactly what Pride celebrations are all about.
Canadians are becoming more conscious of social inequities both in our own cities and abroad. During the 2014 Winter Olympics, many Canadians were outraged at the discrimination towards gay athletes in Russia. In a widespread show of solidarity, major Canadian cities, including Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Regina, Edmonton, Calgary, Whistler, and Vancouver raised rainbow Pride flags. Countless cities across Canada also raise Pride flags during their city’s official Pride Week.
Raising a flag is a relatively small action to take, yet a powerful statement of the celebration of diversity and of support for people in our community who overcome oppression daily. Abbotsford Community Services values all people including all genders, all sexual orientations and all families. Our mission is to foster community well-being and social justice through positive action and leadership, and we support the raising of the Pride Flag at Abbotsford City Hall as a public celebration of all the diversity in our in our community.