Community leaders and politicians are rallying for inclusion and tolerance amid a rising wave of anti-LGBTQ hate on Vancouver Island in the run-up to the annual Victoria Pride parade on Sunday.
Having debuted in 1981, the event is expected to attract 40,000 participants from across the province and beyond.
However, the festivities have been marred by vandalism targeting LGBTQ-friendly signs and landmarks in several municipalities within the Capital Regional District.
It all started on June 1, less than 24 hours after the city of Langford put up five Pride Month street banners about 14 kilometers west of Victoria. they were defaced with red spray paint.
On June 29, vandals completely covered the newly painted rainbow crosswalk outside the Pearkes Recreation Center in Saanich, about 3 kilometers north of Victoria. with black paintas reported by the local police.
On Tuesday, a rainbow crosswalk was found near Bayside Middle School in Brentwood Bay, Central Saanich. disfigured with homophobic slurs scrawled by vandals.
Ace Mann, vice president of the Victoria Pride Society, expressed his dismay at the persistent presence of anti-LGBTQ hate on Vancouver Island in 2023.
“Considering what kind of threats are coming, [they] It doesn’t just mean physical, [but also] mental harassment,” Mann said.
Socrates Diamant, owner of the LGBTQ-friendly Vicious Poodle pub in downtown Victoria, acknowledged that the city still maintains a strong culture of acceptance of diversity.
Recent census data supports this claim, revealing that Victoria has the highest percentages of transgender (0.32%) and non-binary (0.39%) people among all BC municipalities.
Nonetheless, Diamant expresses concern about growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment in the United States seeping across the border.
“Scapegoating to divert attention from failed policies…is a story as old as time, and we’re really starting to see it happen again in the United States and other countries around the world,” he said.
Anti-LGBTQ groups do not reflect Canadian values: MP
in a groundbreaking report published last month, New York-based civil rights organizations the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD revealed that at least 356 hateful and extremist incidents targeted LGBTQ people across the United States between June 2022 and April 2023. , including 40 cases of vandalism.
These groups further revealed that nearly half of these incidents were perpetrated by individuals associated with extremist organizations.
CLOCK | Hate crimes and anti-LGBTQ harassment are on the rise in the US.
While there are no similar reports of extremist anti-LGBTQ groups in Canada, openly gay Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke MP Randall Garrison said these groups do not reflect Canadian values.
“What I’ve been doing is encouraging leaders at all levels and individual Canadians to speak up and say these are not our values,” Garrison said. “This is not who we are as a country, and we reject these attempts to disrupt otherwise legal celebrations.”
Sharing this sentiment, BC Premier David Eby denounced the rising tide of anti-LGBTQ hate on Vancouver Island during the Gay Pride flag-raising ceremony at the legislature on June 29.
“See someone paint on a Pride sidewalk [in Saanich] It’s disgusting,” he said.
In honor of Pride Week in #VictoryWe raised the Pride flag today at the BC Legislature. In the face of growing hate, our government will always stand with the 2SLGBTQ+ community as we continue our work in building a BC where everyone can live with respect and dignity. pic.twitter.com/WRWZBpBYgm
The Rev. Karen Dickey of James Bay United Church in Victoria expressed her distress that certain Christian churches spread hate towards LGBTQ people. However, she emphasized that her church supports and cares for the LGBTQ community.
Dickey believes this year’s Victorian Pride parade will be a celebration filled with joy and hope.
“We’re here in the community among so many others who are really standing up and creating spaces for people to thrive and know their wholeness.”
LISTEN | Rev. Karen Dickey talks about community and belonging
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