“We are the people of your neighbourhood!”
By: Jim Kane
On the 5th of June of this year, Winnipeg will celebrate the 35th anniversary of its Pride Parade. A large crowd and Sunshine are in the forecast, setting up for a beautiful day. This event will involve much reflection on my part. How far we have come.
The first pride parade took place on the August long weekend in 1987. There were 250 of us that marched from Vimy Ridge Park to Memorial Park. Many wore paper bags over their heads, afraid of many forms of reprisal. Some were afraid for their jobs, some of losing family, and others of various forms of intimidation.
I had come out in 1983 to just about everyone I knew in the Community, so I marched without a bag, as did many others. One of our chants that I will never forget is, “We are the people of your neighbourhood!”
Indeed, we were as we came from all walks of life and various backgrounds. The trouble was we were a community in hiding and were considered Sexual Outlaws by many. Of course, there were a couple of counter-protesters with insulting posters, but we did not care. We finally had the first taste of freedom!
We were marching for our Rights and Lives! Our Rainbow Community was going through a period of significant Trauma with many of our friends and loved ones dealing with an AIDS Diagnosis. We had to deal with some hospital staff who did not allow us to visit as we were not considered family.
We had to advocate to get that changed to respond compassionately to our loved ones. Many partners who lost loved ones found out they did not qualify for Survivor Pension Benefits, as the government did not legally recognize them as a couple.
City Councillor Harvey Milk from San Francisco stated that our historic struggle would require us to “Come Out, Come Out, wherever you are .”How true that statement was. People’s attitudes began to change when they knew a friend or relative was also LGBT, as it was known then.
What a difference 35 years has made. Some of our rights came from legislation, some through Court Challenges. I am proud to say that when it came to Employment Anti-discrimination legislation, Manitoba was one of the first provinces to pass that in 1987.
However, when I moved to Alberta, the Alberta Government had to be pushed, pulled and dragged through the Supreme Court before that became a reality. (Vriend decision)
Today we can legally marry a person of the same gender; we qualify for the same rights and privileges as other couples in Canada. Many injustices have been rectified, including unjust compensation for many Federally regulated employees who systematically were purged from employment.
It was truly a meaningful moment for me to be in the Galley of the House of Commons during the Public Apology to our Community. It was and is an essential step in the healing process.
So this weekend, I will march with Pride. Pride for our Rainbow Community and proud for my country.
In Canada, we have A Charter; nobody has a Platinum Card or a Green Card of Charter Rights; we all have a Gold Card of Charter Rights, making Canada one of the best countries to live in!
HAPPY CANADA PRIDE!