Prince Albert has come a long way in the last 10 years. That was the message of Monday’s Pride flag raising at city hall, held to kick off the 10th annual Prince Albert pride week.
About 30 people gathered in Memorial Square for the event, in addition to the 25 or so who came out to the morning flag raising at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, an impressive feat considering only organizer Jennifer Lenny Brockman showed up to the college’s flag raising a mere four years ago.
The theme of this year’s week of celebrations is 10 Years of Queer. As Brockman explained, the theme both celebrates the city’s history celebrating Pride Week while also serving to take back language used to offend in the past.
“One of the reasons we chose 10 Years of Queer is to use those words that are used against us negatively,” Brockman said, “to use words that are used against us … (and) reclaiming that.”
Several dignitaries were in attendance, including NDP MLA Nicole Rancourt, City councillor Evert Botha and police chief Troy Cooper.
Brockman said having increased support from allies of the movement is really important to making those in the LGBTQ community feel safe.
“it’s definitely grown in terms of allied support, and that means a lot,” she said. “ There’s some incredible work happening.”
Botha read the proclamation on behalf of the city, and reflected on his own experience with the pride movement.
He attended his first ever Pride event in 1995. The world, he said, has come a long way.
“For me, the Pride Flag is so much more than just celebrating the Pride Event. It’s to celebrate how far we as human beings have come. It’s important for young people, older people and everybody to understand that we are an inclusive community, and we are an open community,” he said.
“It’s an immense honour as a gay person on council to be there to represent the city, city management and the community.”
Having Cooper present, in uniform, was a significant gesture in building positive community relationships, both Cooper and Brockman said.
“The history of the connection to police and the LGBTQ community hasn’t always been one of support,” Cooper said. “In fact, we have a history of conflict. We’re working really hard to change that relationship. For us to be invited to by here by this community is pretty important for us. Police have come a long way, but we’re still thought of often as instruments of oppression. We have a long way to go to rebuild those relationships.”
To have the police chief, as well as two other police representatives attend, was important to Brockman.
“It really means a lot to have the chief here showing his support, to bring a sense of safety to the community, to know that he’s here and he’s supportive,” she said.
“Perhaps it will also lessen the fear and the worry for people if they experience violence or crimes against them, and to know that the police are there to support us.”
After Cooper spoke, he received a loud ovation. He also received loud applause when he came forward to help raise the Pride flag.
“Pride Week … is a week that’s centered around basic human rights. It’s about inclusion and diversity,” Cooper said. “Most importantly, Pride Week is about building community. You can’t build a healthy and safe community without human rights and respect, and without inclusion and the recognition of the value of diversity.
“This week is an opportunity for the LGBTQ community to stand up against oppression and discrimination. It’s also an opportunity for the rest of us … to let that community know that we care about you, that you’re considered part of our community, that we recognize the value you bring, and that we will commit to providing the same level of support, respect and safety as everybody else receives.”
That support the community has shown throughout the 10 years of Pride weeks has meant more local citizens feel welcome.
Brockman told the story of a couple who witnessed the first event ten years ago, and were in attendance Monday.
“A couple, who happens to be here, said it was the first time they felt comfortable walking down Central Avenue, holding hands,” Brockman said. “It was the first time they felt safe to do that, because of our gathering. Now, they’re married.
“Our very first parade … I knew it was going to be a beautiful event. Hearing those stories helps to know that this makes a difference. For our community to feel safe, to feel comfortable and to feel loved, I’m grateful for this to happen, and to continue to happen.”
Pride Week continues throughout this week with a variety of events, including educational sessions about the gender-diverse community (Tuesday night at the library, 7 p.m.), and drag for teens 9Calvary United, Wednesday at 7 p.m.). The parade is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday starting at Memorial Square, a community festival Saturday at 2 p.m. and a comedy night at Bailey’s Lounge at 8:30 p.m. The week will end with a diversity service at Calvary United at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.
NOTE: This is a corrected story. The original story listed the diversity service at the wrong time. The Herald regrets the error and any confusion it may have caused.