For Albert Lariviere, Sunday morning’s launch of this year’s Sault Pride eight-day Pridefest was both celebratory and poignant.
Joined by daughter Makenna, Lariviere raised the Pride flag at the Civic Centre both to celebrate the beginning of Pridefest and to remember his wife Kristy, who died suddenly May 30 of a brain aneurysm.
“It was an honour to be here today and raise the flag…’love’ and ‘family’ were two words Kristy never used lightly. If she ever told you she loved you or called you family, it meant something,” Lariviere said, speaking to SooToday.
“We’ve always been strong allies and supporters of Pride in any form, and this year Kristy had the honour of being on the Pride committee and really wanted to help out with the organization, but we’ve always been allies of the organization even before there was a Pride in Sault Ste. Marie,” Lariviere said.
Another notable attendee at Sunday’s flag raising was federal Justice Minister and Attorney-General of Canada David Lametti, who joined Sault MP Terry Sheehan, Sault Mayor Christian Provenzano and Susan Rajamaki, Sault Pride committee chair in delivering brief speeches.
“We have made important steps forward and continue to make real changes that help make the LGBTQ2S community flourish,” Lametti told an audience gathered at the Civic Centre.
Lametti highlighted notable points in LGBTQ2S history, such as the 1996 addition of sexual orientation to the Canadian Human Rights Act and Canada’s becoming the fourth country in the world to allow same sex marriage in 2005.
Referring to the current government’s record, Lametti pointed to legislation passed to protect transgender rights to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and expression, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau becoming the first Canadian prime minister to march in a Pride parade, the raising of the Pride flag on Parliament Hill for the first time and Trudeau’s formal apology to LGBTQ2S Canadians affected by previous federal legislation, practices and policies.
“This year, we have invested an unprecedented $20 million for LGBTQ2S service organizations...but there is so much more work to do,” Lametti said.
The minister voiced his opposition to conversion therapy for LGBTQ2S individuals, calling it “dangerous.”
“I’m actively examining potential criminal code reforms to better prevent, punish and deter this practice,” Lametti said.
Sunday marked the beginning of the sixth annual Pridefest in Sault Ste. Marie, the festival continuing until July 28.
“I thought maybe we’d be a bit faded by year six...but every year it grows more and more,” Rajamaki said of the local Pride festival.
“Look at all the people here. We feel safe and secure and our city does a lot to make that happen.”
The flag raising was followed by a group photograph of local LGBTQ2S community members and their supporters on the Civic Centre steps before a march through the downtown to the Bushplane Museum, where Pridefest’s Loud & Proud Family Fun Day activities were scheduled to run throughout the afternoon.