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“This Is Exactly Why We Need Pride” – Threats of Vandalism Directed to Food Trucks Planning to Attend Manitoba Pride Event

Over 6,000 individuals marched in Winnipeg's 2024 Pride parade.

Pride Month is underway. The month is dedicated to the education and normalization of diverse gender identities, sexual orientations, and relationships. It was only in 2004 that Manitoba became the fifth province in Canada to legalize same-sex marriage. 

Progress has always been hard fought for, with 250 individuals ready to either protest or celebrate when the 1987 Human Rights Code was passed in Manitoba. In 2005, the Parliament of Canada enacted the Civil Marriage Act. In 1991, Delwin Vriend, a teacher at The King’s College, was fired because of his sexual orientation. This was brought to the Alberta court in 1994, which ruled that sexual orientation must be treated as a protected class under human rights legislation. This decision was later overruled by the government of Alberta in 1996. The Civil Rights case was then brought before the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that provincial governments could not exclude the protection of individuals from human rights legislation based on sexual orientation.

Even though rights and equalities for those who identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ (two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual, and more within the queer experience) have become increasingly accepted and understood by the general population with over 6,000 marching in the most recent Winnipeg Pride parade, there is continued stigmatization and intolerance toward queer communities. According to 2022 census data, approximately 4 per cent of the Canadian population identifies as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and 0.24 per cent identifies as transgender.

Last year, on October 21, Manitoba Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine restated the Manitoba NDP government’s support for 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Fontaine, who acts as Minister of gender equity, made specific mention of transgender and gender-diverse youth living in Manitoba, emphasizing that young people in Manitoba must be supported to “live as their authentic selves.” 

“Our government stands firm in support of 2SLGBTQIA+ Manitobans and against any form of discrimination or intimidation that puts the lives of 2SLGBTQI+ youth at risk.” 

Information from U Multicultural – There is No Place for Hate in Our Province

This statement came after anti-2SLGBTQIA+ rallies held in Manitoba’’s capital. This was one of many protests and rallies for “parental rights” and whether teachers and councillors in public schools should keep information about a student’s gender identity private from parents and that the concepts of gender identity at too young an age. These protests were met with pro-2SLGBTQIA+ counter-protests who argue that children and youth should have an opportunity to learn and explore their identity in a space they feel is safe for them. Schools in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Alberta have policies where students who are 15 or younger must have their parents’ consent to alter their names or pronouns at school. Policies like this are a concern for 2SLGBTQIA+ advocates who believe this could “out” students and youth to parents or families who are not supportive of their child’s chosen identity, which could be unsafe for the youth. Nearly one out of every three homeless young people in Canada identifies as 2SLGBTQIA+.

At the recent Pembina Valley Pride event, food trucks that planned to attend the event in Altona had to decline due to threats of vandalism.

“Apparently, after we posted the list of who the food trucks were going to be, somebody(ies?) took it upon themselves to threaten them. We’re disappointed but completely understand the need to keep their employees and equipment safe,” said Pembina Valley Pride in a post on Instagram.

The post continues. “There are people who want to spend a day enjoying the sunshine amongst people who are similar to them and won’t judge them, but they’re afraid for their safety, so they’re going to stay home instead. This is why we need Pride.”

Over the past few years in the region, pride flags have also been vandalized or stolen from private property. Despite concerns, Pride was a resounding success for the prairie communities. After the food trucks were unable to attend this year’s pride event, the Altona Elks Lodge 447 came forward, and offered to have BBQ hot dogs, chips, and drinks available at Pembina Valley Pride. This is all done by donation, with all money raised going to supporting kids through The Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children.

In a letter from Pembina Valley Pride board chair Kat Basso, ” I can’t even believe how amazing everything came together. Absolutely perfect in every single way. There are so many people and groups to thank. To those who shared their stories by speaking at our event – thank you for sharing pieces of yourself with us. Your vulnerability is truly a gift, and we are so grateful you chose to share it with us.”

Education and creating safe spaces are critical to moving forward with Pride. Many in rural communities may feel isolated, and Pride provides an avenue to build relationships with others who have similar lived experiences. It’s also a key component in finding a larger community of support, which is incredibly important for those who struggle with mental health. 

According to the Mental Health Foundation:

  • Half of LGBTIQ+ people had experienced depression, and three in five had experienced anxiety.
  • One in eight LGBTIQ+ people aged 18 to 24 had attempted to end their life.
  • Almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life.

“A lot of what you still see from some of the southern areas of Manitoba, those individuals who grow up in these small communities and they can’t stay,” says Jenn Rands, vice-president of advocacy for Pride Winnipeg. “They don’t have resources, and they eventually end up leaving. That’s tough for them; that’s their community, that’s their home, that’s where they grew up.”

Rands reiterates that someone shouldn’t have to leave their community to find acceptance and support. Although there is change happening, it’s happening slowly. With funding from the provincial government, more pride events can occur across the province, and Pride Winnipeg has been able to hire its first executive director to help develop and manage year-round programming.

Human rights can not be taken for granted, and equality must be fought for not just for 2SLGBTQIA+ communities but all communities that experience discrimination.

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– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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