Pride Month in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo begins with flag raising event

The event had speeches calling for supporting the 2SLGBTQI+ community and criticized the province’s proposed policies on gender identity.

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It was last year when Pride YMM board member Bea Price shared a story about how they were bullied and beaten by other kids “just for wanting to be a girl.” Sharing that story with people who accepted and loved Price was a transformative moment, and was when Price felt joy was the strength of the 2SLGTBQI+ community.

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Speaking in front of a crowd of people at Kiyam Community Park for the raising of the Two-Spirit Progress Pride Flag to start Pride Month, Price said the 2SLGBTQI+ community needed to use that joy as “a call to action.”

“It is a reminder that our work is not done until every member of the queer community can stand tall in their truth free from fear and discrimination. Our joy is intertwined with our freedom. And that freedom is incomplete until it’s shared by all,” said Price, who uses all pronouns.

“Many of us face challenges in accessing health care, finding employment and basic human rights. Yet, it is our joy this month and every month that stands as our most profound act of resistance.”

The theme of this year’s Pride Month in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is “No One Left Behind: Equality, Freedom and Justice for All.” The flag raising event was marked with speeches calling for supporting the 2SLGBTQI+ community.

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Speakers with Pride YMM also had plenty of criticisms of the Alberta government’s proposed policies on youth gender identity, youth gender-affirming surgeries and treatments and transgender athletes in women’s sports.

UCP MLAs have been banned from attending events hosted by 14 Pride groups across Alberta. Hanna Fridhed, executive director of Pride YMM, says MLAs who plan to vote in favour of the proposed policies are not welcome to attend upcoming Pride Month events.

“We’re seeing rollbacks not just of trans rights right now, but abortion rights are being questioned, a right for contraceptives,” she said after the flag raising event. “It’s a slippery slope once the the narrative of transphobia and homophobia becomes more legitimized by politicians, by spokespeople, by leaders, it opens scary doors towards a less accepting and less inclusive world.”

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Mayor Sandy Bowman read a proclamation recognizing Pride Month and thanked Pride YMM’s leadership and volunteers for their work in the community. Chantal Beaver of Keyano College and Brent Rowsell of TD Bank also spoke in support of Pride YMM’s work.

Brooke McMillan, vice chair of Pride YMM, said Pride Month is connected to other liberation and social justice movements around the world.

“As a settler whose ancestors arrived on this land as uninvited guests from England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Syria, it is my responsibility to hold any leadership within society accountable to the original people of Turtle Island and to ensure that the queer community I am part of does the same,” she said.

Pride YMM advocates for the 2SLGBTQI+ community in Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo. Their work includes workshops, recognizing businesses and organizations that are inclusive of the 2SLGBTQI+ community, a binder swap program, and support groups. There are plans to expand programming into the rural and Indigenous communities of the region.

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The organization was founded in 2017. One of their founding goals was to have an annual Pride festival in Fort McMurray. That festival has gone from a one-day event to a week-long event and now to a month.

“It went above and beyond expectations last year. We’re seeing a great, great reception to Pride Month this year again,” said Fridhed.

“But the most important thing I would say is that in the current political climate and always is that if you’re an ally, being accepting is not enough. You also need to be vocal and you need to be active.”

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Pride YMM vice chair Brooke McMillan hugs fellow board member Bea Price at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM vice chair Brooke McMillan hugs fellow board member Bea Price at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
People applaud at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
People applaud at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman poses for a photo in front of the Two-Spirit Progress Pride Flag at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman poses for a photo in front of the Two-Spirit Progress Pride Flag at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM Board Member Bea Price speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM Board Member Bea Price speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Jennifer Stephenson at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Jennifer Stephenson at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Kelly Ducey and Tommy Sylver at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Kelly Ducey and Tommy Sylver at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM Executive Director Hanna Fridhed speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM Executive Director Hanna Fridhed speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM vice chair Brooke McMillan speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM vice chair Brooke McMillan speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks with members of bylaw services and the Fort McMurray Fire Department at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks with members of bylaw services and the Fort McMurray Fire Department at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Chantal Beaver of Keyano College speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Chantal Beaver of Keyano College speaks at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Speakers pose with a copy of a municipal proclamation marking the start of Pride Month at Kiyam Community Park on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Speakers pose with a copy of a municipal proclamation marking the start of Pride Month at Kiyam Community Park on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM board members pose for a photo at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Pride YMM board members pose for a photo at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Indigenous drummers at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Indigenous drummers at a flag raising event at Kiyam Community Park marking the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
pride
People watch the Two-Spirit Progress Pride Flag be raised above Kiyam Community Park to mark the start of Pride Month on June 1, 2024. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

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