Dez Kowal shows colourful in Prince Rupert preparing a Seafest parade float vehicle with the Charles Hay Secondary School Gay-Straight Alliance group on June 11. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Dez Kowal shows colourful in Prince Rupert preparing a Seafest parade float vehicle with the Charles Hay Secondary School Gay-Straight Alliance group on June 11. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Millar Time: The right to be equal — upon request

June is Pride month, the one month of the year we celebrate the LGBTQIA2S+ community. The acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual and Two-Spirit has grown over the years of my life, but so too has this community of people. More people are ‘coming out’ or using gender-neutral labels as they simply want to live their true authentic selves.

As a mom of LGBTQIA2S+ I know the one choice for this community is to be loved and accepted as equals. There is no other agenda.

For me, Pride month is a recognition of human rights, equality and freedom to express reclaimed dignity after years of ill-treatment. I am used to the colourful banners, the funky feathered bedazzled clothing and rainbow parades. My spirits have been lifted at seeing people freely expressing their love of life marching the streets and singing with freedom.

I am thankful my child was born into this time and not 100 years ago, or even 50 years ago when people were arrested and killed for not being ’straight’.

But there is still so much more dancing forward to do.

And this is where I see a problem. While across the country brightness and sparkling personalities frolic in the streets during Pride, in Prince Rupert and the North Coast it is lacklustre. Here very few colours shine, and there are nearly no rainbows. It was just last year in 2021, the first unofficial Pride parade was reported in the paper. Sadly, I have heard of nothing similar being planned this year.

Prince Rupert was the first community outside of Vancouver to adopt the Safe Spaces program where, in 2018, businesses displayed rainbow stickers to show a safe and affirming space. However, in just four years the program has become defunct due to a lack of available human resources. Why is this?

Having been monikered the City of Rainbows, I see nothing and feel only the rain upon my face when it comes to recognizing equality, freedom, and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community in our city. Currently, there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for my “gayby” living in this town. There is no leadership or any map of guidance or group to help them find it. There is no communal voice and no show of equality.

Human rights are a core of our Canadian existence. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows fair and equitable treatment to everyone. Under this, rights are fundamental normative rules or entitlements. They are not actions or expressions requiring permission or needing to be asked for.

If this is so, why is there not a gay pride flag waving like a beacon of colourful love from the front of city hall?

Earlier this month, I was looking for good news stories. I inquired if the City of Prince Rupert had anything such as a flag-raising or public event planned to celebrate our rainbow community members.

I was told the city “generally only does formal declarations of non-statutory holidays when they are approached by community groups – and no one came to us regarding Pride this year.” Yeah … ok … that makes sense.

But upon further reflection, I questioned myself why should a group of Prince Rupert citizens, residents, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives need to ask for declaration of equality in their own community? Why is the rainbow banner not just hung as a show of acceptance and equality? Why is a niche of our population being marginalized even further by having to present a formal request for their human rights to be publically acknowledged and respected?

I see no community leadership promoting acceptance and see no support behind empty words declaring equality lives here. Actions speak louder than words.

It would be a monumental step for the City of Prince Rupert to take leadership in the north by creating an equal and balanced community.

Affirmative action is just doing it – just recognizing human rights and LGBTQIA equality, without any request attached. This action would be a public declaration that acceptance and love are mandatory pillars of our community.

So, as a mom, ally, supporter, and giver of free hugs, I say to the City of Prince Rupert, “Just do it.” Fly that rainbow flag to give a voice to all citizens and be a city that makes everyone equal, without anyone having to ask to be.

Just fly the flag.