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Leaders must be standard bearers

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Will your community be flying the rainbow flag next month?

The second-annual Pride festival is getting underway this week with the first-ever Rainy River Pride Walk this Saturday. It will be followed by a series of more than a dozen events and activities over the next couple of weeks, with the majority taking place during PRIDE WEEK+ (June 2-9).

Last year hundreds of people from across the district participated in Pride Week activities and this year's schedule looks to be even more ambitious with the potential to get many more area residents involved.

In addition to celebrating diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of difference in our communities, many of these activities provide everyone—regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression—with opportunities for learning and engagement on LGBTQ2 issues.

One look at the schedule—which is available at www.borderlandpride.org—shows that many local businesses and organizations identify Pride as a high priority.

But what about our community leaders? Borderland Pride has requested municipalities to do their part and to display a rainbow flag and pass a resolution proclaiming June 2-9 as Pride Week.

At the May 15 meeting of the Rainy River District Municipal Association, Coun. Douglas Judson told the councillors, reeves and mayors on hand that part of the reason for Pride Week is “to assert our communities as welcoming and inclusive places to live and work.”

“Pride is quickly becoming a landmark summer activity for our region. It returns direct economic benefits by bringing people out to support local businesses, dine at local restaurants, and stay at local hotels,” he noted.

“It also helps to position our communities and our district as a forward-thinking and inclusive place for families, professionals, and entrepreneurs to call their home and put down roots, confident in the welcome, love, and respect that they will receive from us,” added Coun. Judson.

“Frankly, if none of us are in this business of local government to promote our communities like that and help them to grow, what are we doing here?”

However, not every district municipality has fully supported Borderland Pride's request; some have stripped all of the supportive language from the requested resolution or scrapped it altogether.

As of today (May 22), the Town of Fort Frances and Township of Morley have declared June 2-9, 2019 as Pride Week, while Rainy River intends to and Emo has passed a significantly edited version, according to Coun. Judson.

Last year Rainy River, Fort Frances, Emo, and International Falls passed a Pride Week resolution, while Chapple and La Vallee declined to provide them.

While some may see their municipal leaders recognizing Pride Week as a perfunctory effort, it is in fact vital our elected officials do so. It sends a message that Rainy River District is, or is earnestly striving to be, a place for everyone.

Borderland Pride receives messages and emails from people with ties to Rainy River District who tell them about the physical and emotional abuse they suffered growing up here—at school and at home—and even about the times that they felt so isolated that they attempted to take their own life.

Many say they've never come back here because of this.

But these same people also tell Borderland Pride that seeing Pride Week acknowledged in their community “means so much to them today because they know what it would have meant to them in their time of need,” Coun. Judson said.

Our community leaders must be the standard-bearers of the rainbow flag.

Indeed, Coun. Judson told the Times that a failure to provide a Pride resolution has been deemed to be discrimination on a protected ground under the Ontario Human Rights Code. Municipalities and officials could face fines if they do not.

It's high time we ask our community leaders if they support Pride Week and if not, why?

—Duane Hicks

—Duane Hicks

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