Sudbury Pride Weekend
Marriage March - Aug. 10, 2002
celebrities making the rounds of this year's Gay Pride parades across the country
are dressed neither in leather nor drag. They're wearing something else that pushes
the envelope - gold wedding bands."
on what side of the fence you sit on, Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa are human
rights advocates or evil homosexuals threatening the holy institution of marriage
... Racists may not have wanted to share a seat at the front of the bus with Rosa
Parks but after the laws were changed, they had no choice. Neither men can say
for sure what the outcome of the federal government's appeal will be, but they
are both sure there is no going back, and they're confident it's only a matter
of time before human rights win out over religious bigotry."
We arrived in northern Ontario's Sudbury on August 8, 2002. A comfortable 60 minute flight north of Toronto, this was our final stop on our five-city Pride tour in support of same-sex marriage. Bill Huffman, Director/Curator of the Art Gallery of Sudbury greeted us at the airport with Joseph, a volunteer from the Gallery. Sudbury pride organizers had put us in touch when Bill offered us the use of a vacant residence maintained by the gallery for visiting artists. It was a welcome kindness as we were paying our own way for this advocacy work, as we have done for all Pride parades.
Such was the spirit of generosity and hospitality that filled our weekend in Sudbury. We began our first full day doing some interviews. First with Tracey Duguay, features editor (pictured right - click to enlarge) from Northern Life where we chatted over coffee and lemonade on a hot, sunny Friday morning. And then we walked across the downtown district to the studios of the local CBC Radio station where we did a taped interview with journalist Shirley Moore.
After lunch, and a walking tour of the downtown area, we returned to the art gallery. Volunteers were preparing for the evening's "pot party" - an outdoor screening of the film "Pollock" where patrons selected a beautiful hand-painted pot with their popcorn. Joseph strung lights (photo at right) while others set lights across a charming wooden bridge. The evening was a great success and an unexpected way to spend the night before the pride parade.
We were privileged to have an opportunity to join the inspirational speakers who addressed those who had gathered for the parade. A pride flag hung from the flag pole in Tom Davis square, in a city where more than one resident shared their impression that the rate of suicide among teenage homosexuals was higher in northern Ontario than it was in the more populous south.
When it came time for us to speak, we applauded the courage and activism it took to march in the nearly empty streets of downtown Sudbury, a mining town. A place where, the night before, men in a passing pick-up truck called us "cocksuckers" as they sped past us while we were walking home.
Miss Gay Sudbury climbed up on to the open tail-gate of a pickup truck, and we made our way down the streets. Merchants came out to greet us, residents looked down (and waved!) from their apartments, and only one protestor turned out to express his "shame on Sudbury". Our small group was undeterred, as we cheered the local merchants who were gay-friendly in the area. Others handed out leaflets explaining the meaning of the colours used in the pride flag.
Joe and I volunteered with others to carry a large flag through the streets. Our group of marchers waved and made as much noise as we could, encouraged all along the route by Kelly Landry, chair of the Sudbury pride committee. The parade took a circular route, and we eventually found ourselves back at the square. Everyone moved across the street to a local park where a few booths were set up with PFLAG and AIDs prevention information.
We spent the afternoon meeting new people, listening to stories about how an AIDs support group started up, isolated from the support in major cities during the early years. We heard about efforts in schools, faith groups, bear groups and even how the one and only GLBT club in northern Ontario is a good supporter of the community. One person handed us a leaflet "Our local MPPs need to know that you support recognition of same-sex marriage", with MPP names and contact info. It was great to see local initiatives. In short, a vibrant community where local residents had stepped forward to make their community better!
As we did after our London and Windsor Ontario visit, we call on the Toronto community to support our LGBT brothers and sisters in smaller Ontario communities. Come line the streets and encourage and applaud those who are working for our equality outside of the safety and tolerance of Toronto.
Remember too that you don't have to leave your home to work with us in partnership for equality. Change happens one person at a time. Please begin by writing letters to advocate an end to marriage discrimination, or consider a donation to a national fund in support of legal expenses for the marriage cases now underway in Canadian courts.
Thank you to everyone who made Sudbury a wonderful last stop on our Pride tour this year!. We greatly appreciated your hospitality, generosity and kindness.
Special thanks to Bill Huffman and Cheryl Rondeau and the Art Gallery of Sudbury, Kelly Landry (chairperson of the Sudbury Pride Committee), Mario Domingue (Northern Rainbow Pride) and Mark, Heather, Chuck Haskins and Ralph Johnston, and Andrea McVey (MidWorld Mosaic Co.) and Stephanie Gowan (Doubleday).
provide names of anyone in the photos who would appreciate being identified by
name in a photo credit.