Saskatchewan Pride celebrations shift online amid coronavirus restrictions

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WATCH: June is gender and sexual diversity Pride month in Saskatchewan, and even in the middle of a pandemic Pride still goes on. – Jun 3, 2020

A flag-raising ceremony at the Saskatchewan legislative building kicked off Pride Month like always, but this year attendance shifted to online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a theme that will continue throughout the month of June, as Pride networks navigate celebrations while social distancing restrictions are in place.

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“There’s a lot of power in being visible for other people, but then also seeing yourself reflected in your own experiences,” said Taylor Carlson, Moose Jaw Pride executive director.

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“Social media and virtual and digital tools can be really great at that especially when you’re looking to create momentum around an event or activity or a message.”

Moose Jaw hosted a virtual Pride week at the end of May, highlighting queer, transgender and two-spirit folks through an online reading series.

While Moose Jaw Pride plans to host a larger event with a parade and after party on October 3 and 4, Carlson said, moving forward, digital elements will be included in the festivities.

“Big events that draw folks from across the region will also now have a consistent and professional virtual component,” Carlson said.

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“I also now believe that rural or smaller communities going forward will begin to see that they have access or some access to virtual and digital programming and support services.”

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In Regina, Queen City Pride is postponing its annual event, which is now scheduled for Aug. 30 – Sept. 5.

“We’re still definitely keeping an eye on things in terms of whether or not we’ll have a physical parade and what aspects of our festival are going to have to change,” said Queen City Pride co-chair Dan Shier.

READ MORE: Queen City Pride Festival postponed to the end of September due to coronavirus pandemic

“One way or another, Pride is going to happen.”

Queen City Pride, along with other postponed festivals, will be highlighted in the 24-hour, online Global Pride 2020 event taking place June 27.

Even under strict health restrictions, Shier said it’s important to celebrate June as Pride Month.

“June is significant because of our history, the Stonewall Riots in New York and so many other milestones,” Shier said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatoon Pride parade moves online

“Whether it’s a day, a week, or a month, for some folks it’s the one time of year where they can feel like themselves.”

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Saskatoon’s virtual Pride events are scheduled for June 14 – 20 with an online parade capping off the week.

Gender Diversity Alliances

Pride networks aren’t the only groups adapting to COVID-19 restrictions.

Prairie Valley School Division’s gender diversity alliance (GDA) turned to online meetings when schools closed in the wake of the pandemic.

“This online version just gives them a sense of safety and inclusivity that being isolated in a smaller community maybe they would have trouble finding,” said GDA staff member advisor David Popoff.

According to Popoff, the online GDA has expanded throughout the entire school division and it’s received interest from other divisions, too.

Students from Prairie Valley School Division’s gender diversity alliance walk in the 2019 Queen City Pride parade. Credit: Prairie Valley School Division

“These kinds of groups weren’t a thing ten years in the past. We have a lot of students, especially in these rural school divisions, who would have felt really alone,” Popoff said.

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“The fact that we have these now and we can keep them going in times of isolation is really important and I think it’s something these students really need.”

After walking in last year’s Queen City Pride parade, the GDA is planning its own celebrations.

Popoff said spirit activities, video submissions and documentary screenings could all be part of the plans.

“Hopefully in the future when we can be together that excitement will move forward and maybe they can arrange their own parades in their communities,” Popoff said.

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