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Thousands flock to Vancouver Pride Parade, still fighting for LGBTQ2 progress

WATCH: The Vancouver Pride Parade went ahead as usual after organizers singled out two groups over controversial speakers. Grace Ke reports on the annual show of pride.

Tens of thousands donned their brightest colours and brought the party to downtown Vancouver for the Vancouver Pride Parade Sunday.

Dozens of floats and hundreds of marchers danced and sang their way through the West End streets to not only celebrate the 41st anniversary of the parade, but also some other important milestones in LGBTQ rights.

“Our theme is ’50 Years and Still Fighting,'” Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnot said.

WATCH: (Aug. 2, 2019) Cloud of controversy hangs over Vancouver Pride Parade

Cloud of controversy hangs over Vancouver Pride Parade
Cloud of controversy hangs over Vancouver Pride Parade

“It’s the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which was the start of the Pride movement, and 50 years of (decriminalization of gay sex) in Canada. So we’re celebrating the progress we’ve made, and then looking forward and saying there’s more work to be done.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau took part in the parade, along with federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green Party leader Elizabeth May and other Vancouver-area MPs.

“It’s so important that we all stand together in moments like this,” the prime minister said.

“We’re standing up for human rights, standing up for communities who are marginalized, who continue to suffer a greater degree of hate crimes and intolerance than other communities.”

READ MORE: Vancouver Pride Parade arrives amid controversy over UBC, VPL exclusions

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and other members of council joined the prime minister along the parade route.

Another special guest was Lisa Ebenal, the Langley woman whose Pride flag has been repeatedly stolen from outside her Aldergrove property.

Ebenal and her neighbours were invited by PFlag Canada, a non-profit group that focuses on LGBTQ education and helping family members understand and accept their queer children.

READ MORE: B.C. neighbourhood draped in rainbows after city ‘accidentally’ removes Pride flag

“I’m really honoured,” she said. “I’ve never marched in a Pride parade before, so I’m really excited and proud to be part of this community.”

After snaking its way through the community, revelers gathered at the Pride Festival on Sunset Beach for music, food and activities.

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Part of Davie Village remained closed throughout the weekend, creating a block party atmosphere that reached a fever pitch Sunday.

WATCH: (July 23, 2019) More controversy over Vancouver Pride Parade decisions

More controversy over Vancouver Pride Parade decisions
More controversy over Vancouver Pride Parade decisions

The parade was the second in a row to come with controversy attached, after the Pride Society uninvited UBC and the Vancouver Public Library from taking part.

The decision was based on the two institutions booking speakers this year who have been criticized for spreading hateful and “transphobic” messages.

Individuals, including staff members and UBC students, were still allowed to participate on their own.

READ MORE: Vancouver Public Library barred from Pride for hosting ‘hateful’ speaker

The decision sparked a war of words between the society and David Cavey, the Conservative candidate for Vancouver-Centre for the October federal election, who withdrew his participation in protest.

Cavey charged the society with ignoring free speech laws and promoting intolerance.

When asked about the decision, Trudeau said it was the organizers’ right to do what is necessary to create a safe space for transgender people.

WATCH: (Aug. 3, 2019) Boycotting the Pride Parade

B.C. politician boycotting the 2019 Pride Parade
B.C. politician boycotting the 2019 Pride Parade

“Unfortunately the LGBT community, particularly the trans community, have suffered tremendous discrimination that continues today, and I think it’s important the Pride community has the right to invite and include organizations it feels are allies,” he said.

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“I know the goal of including everyone is really important, but it’s also really important to take strong stands against intolerance. That’s why I’m glad to be here today to send that message across the country that it’s not OK to discriminate against marginalized people.”

READ MORE: Pride divided: Leadership under pressure as LGBTQ2 community looks to future

Members of the Vancouver Police Department took part but were not allowed to wear their uniforms, a message repeated after last year’s decision.

While those issues continued to draw some focus, Arnot said the goal of the parade is to still come together in the message of tolerance and love.

“For a lot of people, Pride means different things, and we want to celebrate all of those things that brings people out to take part,” she said.