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COVID-19 will change Maritime Pride festivals but it won’t cancel events: organizers

Jesse Thomas / Global News

In the wake of the COVID-19 health crisis, Pride festivals across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have taken a new approach this year, with several events shifting online.

In New Brunswick, there were three Pride flag-raising events held Friday, kicking off Pride Week celebrations in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John.

Read more: NYC to mark 50th anniversary of Pride with virtual performances amid coronavirus

All three cities have amalgamated their Pride festivals this summer to form the first New Brunswick Pride celebration, running from July 10 to 18, to be held entirely online.

“Everything will be live-streamed and available through Zoom and it’s completely free. That’s the keyword — free,” said Zivi Richard, president of River Pride in Moncton.

Canceling Pride week wasn’t an option for organizers, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia increases gathering limits to 10 people
Coronavirus outbreak: Nova Scotia increases gathering limits to 10 people

Since strict public health regulations enacted to prevent the spread of the virus don’t allow public gatherings to take to place — like the Pride parade — organizers of New Brunswick Pride created a virtual space for people to come together.

“These events for a lot of people are fun and exciting and kind of loosey-goosey but for some people they save lives,” said Richard. “LGBTQ2 people have a disproportionate amount of mental health issues and suicide rates. So creating just a glimmer of hope, the light at the end of the tunnel is kind of the concept.”

Read more: Many Canadians dealing with mental health issues due to coronavirus: survey

Richard said it won’t be the same without the Pride parades but it’s important to keep the festival going since for many, this year could be their first Pride celebration.

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“It’s really exciting to be able to kick off something so new and revolutionary,” said Richard. “I would say to have such partnerships with other cities and for us to kind of do something completely online is so exciting.”

In Halifax, this year’s Pride festival kicks off July 16 and will be a hybrid of online and in-person events.

Organizers have been working closely with public health officials, and coronavirus safety measures have shifted some plans, but the festival must go on, said Adam Reid, executive director of Halifax Pride.

“We knew that being here for mental health support and being here for social supports was going to be really valuable, and so we didn’t want to rush into what we would be doing but we were certainly recognizing the need to provide some outlets for the community at this time,” said Reid.

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Read more: Toronto joins Pride at Work Canada to promote workplace inclusion for LGBTQ2 people

Pride is always political and this year’s theme is “Pride Amplified,” said Reid, where the festival is calling for an end to systemic racism and police violence.

In the rural town of Stewiacke, N.S., they raised the Progressive Pride flag Friday, which displays the rainbow Pride flag with the colours black and brown added for marginalized LGBTQ2 communities of colour and Indigenous people along with the pink, light blue and white from the transgender Pride flag.

“It just spoke to me of the intersectionality and how important it is and how exclusive in some ways the original Pride flag was,” said Stewiacke Mayor Wendy Robinson. “And this is just so much more inclusive — Stewiacke is a progressive town.”

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