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Pride parade, rainbow flag-raising ceremonies show community “embraces diversity”

SACKVILLE, N.B. – ‘Town and gown’ came together last week to celebrate diversity, acceptance and pride.

A large crowd of community members and university students, many decked out in colourful attire, make their way down York Street last Tuesday evening for the first-ever annual Pride Parade in Sackville. The event, which kicked off with a flag-raising ceremony on the Mount Allison campus and ended with a similar ceremony at town hall, drew close to 200 participants.

The town of Sackville, Mount Allison and University, and local support groups teamed up on Tuesday afternoon to co-host a series of events to help mark Pride Week in Sackville, including the community’s first-ever Pride Parade and a pair of flag raising ceremonies on campus and at town hall.

Kim Meade, Mount A’s vice-president of international and student affairs, said the collaborative efforts of all those involved in putting together these events during Pride Week is “a wonderful way to put on the map how we can work together to put on a very successful Pride Parade and show it to the rest of the world, that we really can make a difference here and we care.”

“In coming together, it’s a chance to build and support the LGBTQ community and allies,” she said during the campus flag-raising ceremony in front of the university chapel.

Meade said she was pleased to see such a phenomenal turnout for the events, which drew a crowd of well over 150 people, many of those being university students.

“I think it really affirms that Mount Allison is a safe and inclusive environment and campus that embraces and celebrates diversity.”

Ryan LeBreton, vice president of student life with the Mount Allison Students’ Union, was also happy with the show of support for the LGBTQ community. He pointed out that students were in attendance from all parts of campus – from student-athletes to students who work in areas of social justice to students who are part of the LGBTQ community and students who are not –  and that shows clearly how far society has come in its acceptance of diversity.

“I strongly believe that this moment, right now, is what we truly define as Mountie Pride,” he said.

University chaplain John Perkin spoke about the importance of events like these raising greater awareness of sexuality and sexual orientation issues.

“Awareness is key to offering support, a welcoming space, and being inclusive to all people in all aspects of our lives,” he said. “And awareness means not only learning about the issues, but celebrating, as we are today, the strides made for people.”

This is the fourth year the town of Sackville has hosted a rainbow flag raising ceremony in conjunction with Pride Week. Janet Hammock, a member of the Sackville NB/Amherst NS Chapter of PFLAG Canada, discussed the significance of the various colors of the flag – meant to symbolize life (red), healing (orange), sunlight (yellow), nature (green), harmony (blue), and spirit (purple).

But she stressed that the flag is but a symbol of freedom and equality and “it’s our job, as human beings, to bring this symbol to life every moment of every day.”

Local MP Dominic LeBlanc, who also spoke at the town hall ceremony, commended the mayor and council for co-hosting such a momentous event.

“It sends a message to the whole community. It sends a message that pride is something every person in Sackville can celebrate and it says something about welcoming people from all communities, from all parts of the country, who are different or are expressing themselves . . .it says something great about this community.”

LeBlanc said the country has made significant strides in respect to LGBTQ rights but still has many more hurdles to overcome.

“I think our job as Canadians is not finished,” he said. “We can always push the envelope . . . we can all do more.”

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