Here's how thousands of Calgarians celebrated the return of the in-person Pride parade

·2 min read
Thousands of Calgarians gathered to celebrate the first in-person pride parade held in the city since 2019.  (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)
Thousands of Calgarians gathered to celebrate the first in-person pride parade held in the city since 2019. (Helen Pike/CBC - image credit)

Rainbow flags, dancers, drag queens and trailblazers filled the streets of downtown Calgary on Sunday as the annual Pride parade made its much anticipated in-person return.

Thousands of people — both allies and community members — gathered to celebrate the movement, the achievements, and mark the end of a two-year absence from in-person gatherings.

"It means a lot. I mean, we've seen people walk by and it's nice to see their faces, and that's what this is all about. We get to sort of experience each other's humanity together in person," said Zac Rempel, the communications coordinator with Calgary Pride.

"That's something that we didn't have the past few years. And just seeing people's faces, seeing the kids, it puts a smile on my face."

Even though events were held virtually throughout the last couple of years, Rempel said that it didn't capture the spirit of the community.

Celebrating freely

Sunday's events were the first since the pandemic for some. For others, it was the first time they were able to freely celebrate their sexuality.

The marshals for this year's event were refugees and newcomers from several countries including, among others, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

Helen Pike/CBC
Helen Pike/CBC

Ken is one of the marshals. He identifies himself as a queer person; he came to Canada from Nigeria just over a month ago.

CBC News is not using his real name due to fear of repercussions in his home country.

"Nigeria is a country that has zero tolerance for LGBTQ persons," he told the Calgary Eyeopener on Sept. 1.

"We have policies that are against LGBTQ persons, like same-sex marriage prohibition law."

Ken noted that if a queer or a gay person is caught, they can be imprisoned for up to 14 years.

He said it's unthinkable that a parade could be even be  held in that country.

From protest to pride

Pride started as a protest when a group of queer people rioted against police harassment at the bar in New York City's Greenwich Village.

Every year since then, celebrations take place to commemorate the uprising.

But in the North American context, pride has shifted more toward the celebration than the protest, according to Brit Nickerson with Calgary Pride.

For her, having refugees and newcomers at the forefront of this year's event is a nod to both the historical origins and the present-day diversity of the movement.

"Having our community out and being so visible, celebrating and creating an affirming space is really important," Nickerson said. "They really represent the courage and resiliency of the pride movement.

"We're really thrilled to be welcoming the refugees as our parade marshals."

LISTEN | Two of Calgary's Pride Parade marshals, who have made Canada their home after facing persecution where they're from originally, spoke with the Calgary Eyeopener about their experience: