Over 20 people gathered by the City Hall in Estevan on Friday afternoon for the Pride flag raising and dedication ceremony. It was among the 2019 Estevan Pride Week's final events.
Education co-ordinator with Saskatchewan Pride Network Laura Budd talked about what else was happening in Estevan that week.
“The week has been really good. We’ve had events at the … Estevan Comprehensive School as well as at the (Estevan Art Gallery and) Museum and just discussions going on around the community all week,” said Budd.
The Pride Week Paint Party at the EAGM took place on Tuesday night.
“They kicked off their community space and give space for LGBTQ people to come in and do painting evening and display their artwork,” said Budd.
ECS had a flag raising on Wednesday at noon. People from Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and other speakers talked about what it means to have a gay-straight alliance and about Pride Week in the community. Budd noted that after four years of having annual events in Estevan they can see the progress.
“It’s pretty good. People are starting to get comfortable with having a conversation. We’ve always known that there are LGBTQ2S plus people in Estevan and area, but now it’s a little more open,” said Budd.
During her opening speech at Friday’s ceremony, Budd also talked about Pride Week’s mission of starting a conversation, creating safe space and raising awareness. She noted that being a part of the LGBTQ2S community is still illegal in 72 countries around the world.
“LGBTQ2S is still a crime in many of these countries… Just Saturday, May 18, 2019, Muhlaysia Booker was found shot to death in Dallas, Texas, just for being a trans woman of colour. She has committed no other crime but being visible enough,” recalled Budd.
She explained that rainbow flags, pride crosswalks, parades and “pretty” cakes are important because the diversity they symbolize is not yet fully welcome in many communities.
“Let us celebrate that this week is the Pride Week in the City of Estevan. We celebrate diversity, we welcome it, we honour all people of difference,” said Budd.
The opening speech was followed by greetings and speeches by Karly Garnier, education and outreach program co-ordinator with the EAGM, who said the art gallery is proud to be a safe and inclusive place for all people in Estevan.
“We are here for you even if you just need a place to come with friends,” said Garnier.
Estevan Police Deputy Chief Murray Cowan was speaking on behalf of the city police and the City of Estevan and Mayor Roy Ludwig, who couldn’t make it on Friday since he had to attend meetings in Regina.
Cowan said that Estevan very much supports diversity, and the topic is very important.
“That’s something that’s still growing in our community and we all still need to learn," said Cowan.
Police Chief Paul Ladouceur said that supporting these kinds of events and educating people about diversity is the only way to move forward. And this process is still far from being accomplished.
“The deputy said, everyone supports it (Pride Week). We all know that’s not true. We need to get people educated... And events like this certainly do that,” said Ladouceur.
He also promised to push for the rainbow crosswalk next year in Estevan, which was met with applause.
“You can talk diversity, you can comment on diversity, but it’s actions, not words that truly make a community diverse,” said Ladouceur.
Venerable Wilma Woods of St. Giles Anglican Church and St. Paul’s United Church pastor Jason Richards also talked about their perspective on diversity and inclusiveness. And Emily Gillies of Four Pillars said that the new retreat centre is an open to anyone safe space, which she hopes may help to unite diverse community members.
The ceremony was followed by a social part of the event sweetened by a special occasion cake. The Estevan Pride 2019 cake, made by the Southern Plains Co-op, had a pink stripe added to the rainbow. Budd explained the meaning behind this colour.
“Blue, pink and white are the colours of the trans community, and the pink was added in to welcome both the two-spirit and trans community as the overall Pride community.”
Besides Pride Week, there are events happening throughout the year with GSA and other Saskatchewan Pride Network community partners. But the Pride Week is the biggest event for the Estevan and area LGBTQ2S community.
“This is our bigger week to try to promote things within the whole community of Estevan, to raise the flag at the City Hall and just to show the colours that show that visibility for those that need our support and need to know that they are welcome and loved here,” said Budd.
People who have questions, need help or just want to stay connected can always contact the Saskatchewan Pride Network through their website and social media, and call Budd personally.
“We do a lot of peer-support and counselling both by phone and email. And when we are in the community (we just come and talk to people),” said Budd.
She noted that trans and gender-diverse community is now having a really hard time because of a lot of push-back for gender diversity and serious lack of understanding and education on the topic, so events like Pride Week are very important.