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Nanaimo Pride Flag Raising Statement

On Tuesday, June 4th, 2019, Nanaimo had the official Pride flag raising event at Nanaimo City Hall, marking the beginning of Pride week in Nanaimo.

I was in Ottawa, so I asked Ilan Goldenblatt to attend and say a few words on my behalf.

Statement from MP Paul Manly for Nanaimo Pride Flag Raising June 4, 2019

Good afternoon and thank you very much for having me here today. It is an honour to speak at this event on behalf of Paul Manly, our newly elected Member of Parliament. Paul could not be here today because he is in Ottawa, working hard for our riding, and so he asked me to be present on his behalf to acknowledge the import of this day.

The Nanaimo pride festival has evolved through the years to become an important fixture in our community. The message of hope, pride, love, and celebration of diversity, is a welcome message in our communities, and early supporters and builders of Pride movements have certainly done their part to create increased safety for the community. Thanks to the activists of the past we now have inclusive curriculum in the schools, rights to marriage, spousal rights, and better and more specific healthcare and mental health care for LGBTQ2S+ individuals. Each gain was a hard fought battle, and we must remember that although today Pride is a celebration of diversity, its origins represent a darker time in history where oppression and violence against the community was often perpetrated by the police itself and by other authority figures. The Stonewall Riots are widely recognized as the beginning of the Gay Pride movement. Using archaic laws that criminalized individuals for consensual acts between adults, police officers would routinely raid bars and taverns known to be frequented by LGBTQ2S+ individuals. Raids were often violent, left individuals injured and traumatized, and sent a message of intolerance and hate to those who did not identify with heteronormative lifestyles.

In the morning hours of June 28th, 1969 the patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back, armed with sticks and stones, and their own sense of pride and honour. This resistance was led by some of the most marginalized members of the community. Pride was born out of a direct need to physically fight back against an intolerant establishment. Locally, in our own community, we have our own iconic ground breakers who paved the way for the celebration we have today. Paul related the stories of Rick Myers breaking ground here in Nanaimo and walking into the Queens in Nanaimo in drag back in the days when nobody had done that before. Rick, like many others, had experienced discrimination coming out in a small town, but still had the bravery to be who he is and to bring Vicky Smudge to a town that hadn’t yet experienced anyone like Vicki Smudge. Paul was so moved by Rick’s story that he captured this history as part of a Nanaimo’s living history project. When we think about how current this history is, we can see how groundbreaking the early Pride movement was, and how much momentum was gained in such a short period of time. Today when we remember the Stonewall riots we must make a particular point of mentioning that many of those on the front lines were among the most vulnerable of these populations, young and poor transgendered individuals, drag queens, people of colour, and homeless men and women who all took refuge night after night at the Stonewall Inn. These individuals at the forefront of Pride’s history are still among the most marginalized members of the modern LGBTQ2S+ populations.

Today we want to make a statement on behalf of Paul Manly’s office. We celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ2S+ population, and we recognize the contributions of Trans men and women, individuals of colour, and those who are marginalized due to poverty and homelessness. You are leaders in this movement and in our community, and we are happy to stand alongside with you today in celebration and acknowledgement.

Thank you again on behalf of Paul Manly’s office. It was an honour to be here to celebrate with you.