‘Show up’: Vancouver Pride Festival kicks off with call for celebration, allyship

Click to play video: 'Pride Week celebrated at Vancouver City Hall'
Pride Week celebrated at Vancouver City Hall
WATCH: The City of Vancouver held a flag-raising ceremony to mark its annual Pride week today. As Global's Travis Prasad reports, pride celebrations this year come amid a wave of backlash against 2SLGBTQ+ rights, prompting organizers to stress just how important it is for people to show support – Jul 31, 2023

The Vancouver Pride Festival has officially kicked off, its theme of “reconnect” aiming to bring people back together to celebrate themselves and share community space in the aftermath of the pandemic.

The Vancouver Pride Society joined partner organizations, Vancouver councillors and local First Nations in a launch ceremony and flag-raising on Monday. Festivities are scheduled daily, culminating in the Pride Parade and after-party on Sunday afternoon.

Some 650,000 are expected to witness the events, with up to 150 marching in the parade.

Heather McCain of the Live, Educate, Transform Society said improvements to the parade’s accessibility, including a new route, mean some folks with disabilities will be able to attend for the first time.

“That makes us very happy seeing our work creating the change that’s needed,” McCain, grand marshal for the week, said at the launch.

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“It’s time we start recognizing all of the intersecting identities and not just having people be disabled in disabled spaces, but not queer and trans, and people being queer and trans in those spaces but not disabled spaces. We need to create an environment where we can bring our entire selves.”

Click to play video: 'Whitecaps 10th anniversary Pride match'
Whitecaps 10th anniversary Pride match

The Vancouver Pride Festival celebrates the diversity, intersectionality, history, culture and contributions of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. While it is a celebration, Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Justin Khan said it’s also a time to raise awareness and allies as disturbing stories of homophobia and transphobia increasingly make headlines in Canada and the United States.

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“Allies just need to show up. They need to be present to protect our communities, to celebrate our communities, and really just to stand alongside,” he told Global News.

“I think there’s a really great opportunity for that to happen at this year’s parade and festival. I saw it last year and I’m excited to see it even bigger this year.”

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According to Statistics Canada, hate crimes against the 2SLGBTQ+ community have also increased, with those targeting sexual orientation spiking 64 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

Symbols of Pride — including crosswalks and flags — have recently been defaced in a number of B.C. cities. Events involving drag performers, including summer camps and library readings, have become a particular target.

Click to play video: 'Saanich Pride crosswalk vandalized'
Saanich Pride crosswalk vandalized

This year’s Pride declaration, read aloud by city councillors on Monday, contained a new addition that recognized the “distressing rate of hostility towards drag performers,” noting their impact on freedom of expression and cultural inclusion.

“We are seeing a rise in threats and protests and violence towards the community around the world, and that’s obviously very concerning, and we need to do everything we can here in Vancouver to fight back against that,” said Coun. Peter Meiszner.

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“I think we have to remain vigilant and we need to continue to be proud and stand up, and speak our truth and not step back or step down and be intimidated.”

Meiszner encouraged anyone who witnesses an act of hate or bigotry to “stand up and say something” on behalf of their neighbours, friends and family.

Click to play video: 'First-ever BCHL Pride Night held in Coquitlam, B.C.'
First-ever BCHL Pride Night held in Coquitlam, B.C.

There are more events scheduled for the 2023 Vancouver Pride Festival than ever before.

Other changes include a new, longer parade route beginning at Davie and Denman streets, proceeding down Beach Avenue and Pacific Street, and ending at the new festival site at Concord Community Park.

As per a policy developed in 2018, Vancouver police will not march in the Pride Parade, but will be present along the route to ensure public safety.

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This year, the Vancouver Pride Society is also reducing the number of floats and trailers allowed in the parade. On its website, it says this change is to lower the number of heavy vehicles involved with a goal of making Pride emissions-free for Canada Pride in 2024.

The parade will see part of Denman Street, Davie Street and Beach Avenue closed from Denman to Jervis Street, and Pacific Avenue from Jervis Street to Carrall Street.

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