It was a day of firsts at the E.D. Fullerton Municipal Building on Tuesday.
For the first time, officially, the Pride Flag was raised to the top of the flagpole at the Municipality of Cumberland’s service centre in Upper Nappan.
The was put up last year, but it was only recently that municipal council changed its flag policy to permit it.
“Raising the flag today must mean more than a check for us in our efforts for diversity and inclusion in this world, where people are still denied rights to self-identity, the right to love and marry and denial of body autonomy,” Deputy Warden Joe vanVulplen said. “Raising the flag here today is a beacon of institutional support for the basic right to be who we are, whether in public or in private.”
vanVulpen said the flag can also be a beacon to others who share in the identities and experiences under the LGBTQ+ umbrella to show them others won’t stand idly by while their rights are denied.
“Having said that, I am proud to be a Canadian and to see the gains that are being made in Canada toward inclusion and diversity,” the deputy warden said.
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said inclusion and diversity are basic human rights many people have been fighting for over many years. Diversity, she said, is the range of human differences, including – but not limited to – race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin and political beliefs.
Inclusion, she added, is involvement and empowerment where the inherent worth and dignity of all people are recognized.
“An inclusive community promotes and sustains a sense of belonging, it values and practises respect for the talents, beliefs, background and ways of living of its members,” she said. “Inclusive environments have individuals that feel appreciated for their unique characteristics and therefore comfortable sharing their ideas and other aspects of their true and authentic selves.
“A community that truly respects diversity and empowers all people is a healthy community.”
The MLA said she knows the path has not been an easy one for members of the LGBTQ+ community and that many challenges still exist, but added overcoming these challenges make the community stronger, more diverse and compassionate.
Brent Noiles from Cumberland Pride said the community has come a long way since the first flag raising ceremony in 2006 at Amherst’s former town hall.
“Our fearless leader at the time, Gerard Veldhoven, led that celebration and it’s people like Gerard and his late partner Norman Carter and the late Eldon Hay who contributed to this pathway of understanding,” he said. “It was a lifetime of work for those people and we have learned from them.”
Flag-raising ceremonies, while short in duration, foster better understanding the community, each other as friends, family, co-workers and community leaders.
“We don’t call it a Rainbow or LGBTQ+ community for nothing. There’s lots of colours, lots of letters and lots of diversity,” he said. “It wasn’t easy for Gerard and Norman and the others who came before and there are still battles. The most important strength is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and have that empathy.