Pride parades cancelled but the fight for equality continues
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Pride parades cancelled but the fight for equality continues

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Pride parades cancelled but the fight for equality continues. Winnipeg’s first Pride Parade in 1987

As with many other events in the community, Pride Festivals are being cancelled and/or suspended due to the Pandemic. Some cities will hold various virtual events in the interim.

Pride has always been a special time in a community where young and old, come out to celebrate Pride or to be supportive allies. When I reflect back on Winnipeg’s first Pride Parade in 1987, there were 250 of us, with some wearing bags over their heads. In those days, of course, people were worried about getting fired or harassed at the workplace if our true sexuality was discovered.

Pride parades cancelled but the fight for equality continues

We were a community in crisis, facing a Pandemic that was killing many in our community. AIDS/HIV was considered a Death Sentence if you tested positive. The community felt the indignation of a variety of things, for example, some of us were not allowed to visit our life partner’s in hospitals because we were not recognized as a couple in the eyes of the law.

The Government of Canada did not approve CPP Survivor Pension benefits for same-sex couples. Some life partner’s suffered extreme hardship after their loved one’s death, as the family did not approve of the relationship, and no legal will was available. It was heartbreaking when my friend Rory, who had AIDS wrote his mother. She wrote back and told him it was god’s punishment for the lifestyle he has chosen. It was the darkest of days. Our community was at a crossroads. It became obvious to many of us, that hiding in the closet was not helping us gain legal rights and broader community understanding.

It was time to break down the barriers of Social Injustice. Harvey Milk an openly gay City Councillor from San Francisco, challenged our community to “Come Out, Come Out, wherever you are”. He championed that Slogan in a California Election. We won against all odd in California, because people chose to come out and put a name and a face to our community.

Pride parades cancelled but the fight for equality continues

I remember one of the slogans here in that first parade—we are the people in your neighborhood!

And we Rose! We fought for our rights by advocating with elected officials. We fought in the Courts for others, when there was no political resolution. But most of all, the Community supported us and our parades grew with allies from many walks of life. Pride parades today are a time to celebrate our successes and our lives.

This year in Winnipeg, we were to host Canada Pride. This would have included a Human Rights Conference. That is postponed for now, but Winnipeg looks forward to hosting it in 2021. It is the ultimate irony that a movement that grew and ignited because of one pandemic, will face a delay because of another.

The story does not end………..to be continued.

Jim Kane

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