Usually when we talk about Pride parades, we reference big numbers: Organizers say Montreal’s 2017 Pride events, the largest in the city’s history, attracted 2.7 million people. Last year, “tens of thousands of people” attended Vancouver’s parade and festival. And according to Pride Toronto’s 2018 economic impact statement, 1.6 million people attended that city’s Pride weekend, and an additional million people showed up for other events throughout the month of June.
But there’s something to be said for more modest celebrations—and not because of the heartwarming Instagram posts. (Though we obvs love those, too.) To be clear, homophobia and transphobia can, and does, happen anywhere in Canada, but we know that people living in smaller Canadian cities and towns face challenges that their urban counterparts don’t. Same-sex couples in rural areas may have to travel to find a marriage commissioner who will marry them. Rural police seem to take intimate partner violence (IPV) between different-sex partners more seriously than IPV between same-sex partners. And it’s well-established that there are fewer LGBTQ-friendly resources, not to mention role models, available to people who live outside of Canada’s major cities.
That’s why Pride celebrations in these communities can be especially meaningful—and why we’re highlighting some of Canada’s tiniest Pride parades. Read on for the deets on six small but mighty Pride celebrations.
Whitehorse, Yukon (June 4-9)
Whitehorse’s Pride parade began in 2013 in response to a homophobic policy on sexual orientation put in place at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. (The policy, which was available on the school’s website, supported the Catholic Church’s problematic position on same-sex relationships.) Dubbed 24 Hours of Gaylight—which is possibly the best name ever?—Yukon’s Pride celebrations include a queer film night and queer trivia, not to mention the big parade, which happens on June 8.
Stats: Last year, the parade had a total of 400 attendees. This year, they are expecting an even bigger crowd of 500 people.
When to Go: June 4-9, 2019, various locations, queeryukon.com
Pembroke, Ontario (June 7-15)
Pembroke’s Pride Walk began when a group of friends decided that the city—and the Ottawa Valley area in general—needed more LGBTQ+ awareness and representation. So, they organized their first Pride event in 2014, a walk through downtown Pembroke with almost 150 attendees. In the past five years, their work has expanded beyond events—organizers recently partnered with PFLAG Renfrew County to bring support meetings to the Ottawa Valley. And events go well beyond the OG walk; this year’s schedule includes an inclusive yoga class, Drag Queen Storytime at Pembroke’s public library, an all-ages drag show and, of course, brunch.
Stats: Last year, over 500 people came to celebrate the Pembroke Pride Walk. This year the organizers are expecting over 1,000 people to attend the festivities.
When to Go: June 7-15, various locations, pembrokepride.com
Kincardine, Ontario (June 22)
Kincardine Pride President Fort Papalia was disturbed by an anti-LGBTQ protest that had come to town. After weeks of thinking of how to respond—and show that Kincardine is welcoming to the LGBTQ community—Papalia got together with his theatre colleague Sandy Blackwood and decided to organize Kincardine’s first Pride parade in 2017.
Stats: Last year just under 1,000 people attended Kincardine’s Pride events, and organizers expect this year will be the first celebration with 1,000+ Pride-goers.
When to Go: June 22 at 11 am, Connaught Park, Kincardine, Ont., facebook.com.
Labrador West, Newfoundland and Labrador (July 14-20)
Labrador West Pride owes its existence to two young women who wanted to show their support for a friend who had come out as gay to her family and friends. Since then, the event has only become more popular. Last year, Labrador West Pride hosted its first drag show competition. There were seven performers (both drag kings and queens) and about 150 attendees—which is a lot for a small town! It was such a big hit that members of the community requested another drag show be held this year. (Organizers said yes, of course.) The organizers are hoping to bring in a drag queen from Fredericton, New Brunswick to participate. The event has also stayed true to its roots; last year’s celebration was dedicated to Raymond Condon, a local educator who was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980s, and later came out as gay. Pride organizers even dedicated city crosswalks to Condon; they’ll be named “Ray’s Rainbows” going forward.
Stats: Last year, Pride week had between 100 and 200 attendees.
When to Go: July 14-20, various locations.
Saint John, New Brunswick (August 6-11)
The Saint John Pride parade started in 2002 as a march for LQBTQ+ rights, led in part by LGBTQ activist Judith Meinert. Almost two decades later, the event had evolved into celebratory lineup of events—and last year, the main event evolved even further. For the first time in Atlantic Canada, Saint John’s parade happened in the evening. The theme was “Be Bright, Be Bold, Be You” and participants were encouraged to bring lights, glow sticks, LED flashlights and other celebratory glow in the dark items. The event was such a success that this year’s parade, which happens on August 10, will again be a nighttime event.
Stats: Last year, the Saint John Pride Parade attracted approximately 3,000 spectators and participants. This year, organizers are expecting 3,250 attendees.
When to Go: August 6-11, various locations, facebook.com
Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba (September 6-8)
How it began: Riding Mountain National Park’s inaugural Pride weekend was held during 2017’s Canada 150 celebrations, making it the first Canadian national park to host a Pride event. Organizers say they took Canada 150’s theme of inclusivity to heart, planning an event that they hoped expressed an important idea: Canada’s national parks belong to all Canadians, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. Past activities include both a family-friendly dance party and an adults-only version, live music, arts and crafts and workshops.
Stats: Last year, Riding Mountain National Park hosted over 1,000 visitors throughout its week-long Pride celebrations.
When to Go: September 6-8, Riding Mountain National Park, Onanole, Man., facebook.com
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