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Innisfail Pride shines a light of hope (12 photos)

Second annual Pride event in Innisfail honours inclusivity, tolerance and community

INNISFAIL — With the world recoiling in horror from the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Oslo, Norway that left two dead and 20 injured, Innisfail presented itself last weekend as a shining beacon of peace, tolerance and hope.

Following nearly two weeks of gloomy rain the skies opened up for two days of glorious sunshine on June 25 and 26 for the second annual Innisfail Pride celebration.

The event, which was held at the Legion Picnic Park behind the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion Branch #104, attracted more than 600 citizens from Innisfail and from across Alberta.

“Let us not forget that there are still a lot of countries, a lot of neighbourhoods, a lot of cities that aren't this lucky; where people are still fighting for these (LGBTQ2S+) rights,” said guest speaker Vicki Finlay, a Red Deer Pride shop owner.

“People are killed and persecuted for sitting out like we are right now, loving each other, just for being ourselves.

“It still isn't completely safe to be queer, is it? Not completely. But we are here today in this park, and I couldn't think of a more beautiful safe place to be right now.”

The two-day celebration that featured speakers, music, drag queen shows, and a family barbecue, began with opening remarks by the Innisfail Pride Committee, followed by a land acknowledgement and prayer by Cree elder Maggie Loney, and then comments from local and federal politicians.

Mayor Jean Barclay told attendees, many attired in rainbow-coloured scarves, leggings and flags, that the town recently proclaimed June as Pride Month, and the Pride flag was flying proudly at town hall, and even at Innisfail High School and St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School.

She also reminded the buoyant crowd the town is supporting Bill C-229, proposed federal legislation to ban all anti-hate symbols.

“But the reality is these are just all things on paper,” said Barclay. “And what we need is for every person in this community to be an ally, to stand up in the right way when you hear things that are being said that shouldn't be said, or things being done that shouldn't be done.”

Senator Paula Simons told the audience it was important to note everyday Norwegians took to the streets peacefully when Oslo’s Pride Parade was cancelled after last week’s shooting horror.

“Thousands and thousands of Norwegians carrying rainbow flags and flowers filled the street outside the nightclub and refused to give in to hatred and refused to give into fear,” Simons told the Innisfail Pride audience.

She also referenced the recent striking down of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court of the United States; a decision with a concurring judgement by Justice Clarence Thomas that could potentially strike down a decision to allow gay marriage.

“I thought to myself, ‘we have woken up on the other side of the looking glass,” said Simons.

However, the atmosphere at Innisfail Pride was decidedly festive. In fact, it was decisively concluded by organizers that straight citizens outnumbered members of the LGBTQ2S+ community by at least four to one with everyone happy and perfectly at peace.

Innisfail Pride co-organizer Dale Dunham was beaming. Innisfail Pride’s theme for 2022 was Love is Love, but it also underscored hope.

“Hope is my favourite word. We can always have hope because it’s something that doesn’t cost anything,” said Dunham, adding Innisfail Pride for the community was also about inclusivity.

“It's about everybody's accepted. It doesn't matter. Race, religion, creed, what your socioeconomic status is, any of that. It's just about, if you show up, you're welcomed.”

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