Charlottetown, Stratford, Cornwall and Summerside held flag raising events on Monday as part of the P.E.I. Pride Festival, which kicked off on the weekend. Other communities such as Murray River, North Rustico, O'Leary and Souris also have Pride flags raised.
"We're so happy that so many flags are going up for this festival and in many communities where the flags have never flown before," said Andrea McPherson, secretary of Pride P.E.I.
MacPherson said many towns chose to raise the newer progress Pride flag that includes black and brown stripes to represent Black, Indigenous and people of colour, and light blue, pink and white stripes to represent the transgender community.
'A very beautiful sight to see'
Don Francis, a retired master corporal of the Canadian Armed Forces, attended three flag raisings on Monday.
"It's a very beautiful sight to see, to be honest. Lots of positive changes, everything going in the right direction, whether it be fast paced, slow pace. The more important part of it is that we're moving forward," he said.
Francis is a gay Afghanistan combat veteran from Lennox Island First Nation. He recently moved back to P.E.I. after more than 13 years of service in the army.
"I think every opportunity that we actually have to show our diversity inside of our community, country, it's rewarding and it means a lot," he said.
Premier Dennis King attended the event in Charlottetown. He said it's important for P.E.I. "to be diverse, to be open, to be welcoming and to be understanding for all the individuals."
"I just want every Islander to be the best person they can be and not to be focused on the boxes that society has tried to put on the definition of what people are, or who they are, and who they love and who they worship," King said.
Changes to events
This year's Pride Festival is a mix of in-person and virtual events. MacPherson said Pride P.E.I. has been working with the Chief Public Health Office to make sure in-person events follow health restrictions.
"We were always hoping that restrictions would get easier, but we aimed for the worst ones or the most strictest ones, so that when we were delivering the festival, we already knew that we would make it as safe as possible for our community," she said.
One main change at this year's festival is that the usual Pride Parade is being scaled back to a march on Saturday, with no spectators allowed in order to follow public health protocols.
"It's not for entertainment purposes," said MacPherson.
"There's just so many voices that don't feel that they're heard that we want to take take a moment to have a march so we can raise all those voices together."
MacPherson said pre-registration is encouraged for the march, but any one is welcome to join on Saturday as long as they follow health protocols like mask wearing and social distancing.
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