Sunday marked the raising of the Pride flag at the Civic Centre to launch Sault Ste. Marie’s fifth annual Pridefest.
Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano, addressing LBGTQ people and supporters on the steps of city hall, said “the message I would like to impart to all the citizens of this area is whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, intersex, two-spirited or straight, this (the Sault) is your home. You belong here, you are welcome here, you are wanted here and you always will be.”
“As my term comes to an end here I reflect on it and one of the things I’m most proud of was that I was the first mayor to raise the Pride flag in Sault Ste. Marie.”
Uniformed members of the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, Sault OPP, RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) were in attendance.
Sault Police Chief Hugh Stevenson said “we are committed to providing an equitable, inclusive, effective police service which addresses the safety and security needs of our diverse community. It is our goal to foster relationships, seek to understand and respect the diversity of all groups and individuals in our community.”
In over 70 countries, Stevenson noted, same sex relationships are illegal and can result in life terms of incarceration and, in several countries, the death penalty.
Sault MP Terry Sheehan reminded the audience Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been the first Canadian prime minister to walk in a Pride parade.
“We’re going to try to get him here one of these times,” Sheehan said.
Sault MPP Ross Romano was not able to attend, but in a message read by Provenzano, wrote “we are lucky to live in a place that promotes freedom and how you want to express yourself.”
Susan Rajamaki, Pridefest 2018 committee chair, spoke of the growth of the Sault’s Pridefest over the years, going from two days of events to eight (details of which may be found on Sault Pride Community’s Facebook page.
“I wanted to say thank you very much to (Sault Police) Inspector Monique Rollin for reaching out to me a few weeks back. We had a meeting and we talked intensively about what the relationship is going to start looking like between our community and the Sault Ste. Marie Police, and we both agreed there’s a lot of work to be done on that front and the first place to start is at events like this,” Rajamaki said, thanking law enforcement officials for being in attendance at Sunday’s ceremony.
The Pride flag was raised at the Civic Centre by Tim Murphy and Keith Bowser.
After the flag raising, Pride participants walked from the Civic Centre through the downtown core, a Sault Police cruiser leading the way, heading to the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre for an afternoon of activities which included live music, face painting and balloons for children and youth and a chance to check out merchandise for sale from Sault and area vendors.