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Home The Northern Advocate Ratushniak marks first Pride month as mayor of La Ronge

Ratushniak marks first Pride month as mayor of La Ronge

Ratushniak marks first Pride month as mayor of La Ronge
Ratushniak hands out refreshments at a pride parade in downtown La Ronge on Sunday. Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock

La Ronge concluded Pride month over the weekend with festivities at Patterson Park — where the rainbow flag stands at half mast. Drive-in drag shows were presented by the Saskatchewan Pride Network at the Mel Hegland Uniplex parking lot where donations were collected for the local Gay Straight Alliance Clubs and Reconciliation Organization.

As the town’s first openly gay mayor, Colin Ratushniak has set out to dismantle the previous council’s “old boys club” way of doing things and to take a “more positive” approach to municipal politics in La Ronge.

The adjacent communities of La Ronge, Air Ronge and the Lac La Ronge Indian Band held a Pride march through town together on Sunday in a show of solidarity. Having struggled growing up gay in northern Manitoba — the mayor said seeing northern communities support Pride month together in such a public way is moving to him. 

Pride walk participants at at Patterson Park in La Ronge. Photo submitted by Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson

“Had I seen what I’m seeing today in this community where I grew up — I think that my struggles would have been a lot less real. I think that it would have been amazing to come by authentic self a lot younger growing up,” Ratushniak said. 

“This is a really important time for us to be in the community to help those people that need it. This can potentially make all the difference for that one youth or that one young adult or young teen or anyone needing the faith to come out — or who is dealing with (insults) or parents who don’t like their life choices.” 

Ratushniak is an advocate with the Lac La Ronge regional pride committee, a former professional figure skater and television producer.  

Originally from Thompson, Manitoba, Ratushniak moved to La Ronge when he made a career change in his early 30s to become a pilot. 

He made the move into politics after the unanimous approval of his submission to fly the pride flag in La Ronge for the full month of June last year. He was elected mayor of La Ronge last November after incumbent Ron Woytowich didn’t seek reelection. 

The council vote that got Ratushniak thinking politics was significant because it marked the first time all members present had agreed to a motion regarding the pride flag.

The mayor  said he has seen progress on the issue since 2017 when a similar motion to fly the pride flag for the month of June was voted down.

In 2019 the flag was flown at the town office after considerable pressure that included a walk-in for the pride flag.

“I always look at those as opportunities to have conversations and to educate. We still have people questioning why we’re doing (Pride month),” Ratushniak said. 

“Whenever those conversations happen, that’s exactly when we know that we still have a lot more work to do. That’s what (Pride) is there for. It’s there to make those uncomfortable conversations happen.”

This year Ratushniak said raising the flag was a breeze. 

“It makes me really proud that my council made that decision to stand up for that locally,” Ratushniak said.

At the same time, Ratushniak said it’s an ongoing struggle for LGBTQ2+ people to  achieve full acceptance. 

“There’s still a lot of work to do locally, nationally and globally for the fight for equality,” Ratushniak said.

“Some people see it as a celebration, but the Pride march originated as a protest. We have to remember that there are countries in the world where you can be criminalized and sent to jail simply because of who you are. It’s important for people to know that.”