Rainbow flags were raised in several Newfoundland and Labrador communities Wednesday to mark the start of Pride Month, but while supporters say progress has been made to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community, more still needs to be done.
Paul Whelan, a town councillor in Glovertown, said it was important for the town to show its support for members of the LGBTQ community. Whelan, who moved back to the community with his husband in 2021, says he was pleasantly surprised by the support for Pride in the region.
"I was hoping that we could extend that and kind of grow it right across rural Newfoundland. There's a great opportunity here to be able to share the message," Whelan said Wednesday. "It's a symbol of support.… There's places to go, people to turn to, if you're struggling with your story."
Pride Month is celebrated in June around the world, including events in Newfoundland and Labrador, while St. John's holds Pride Week events in mid-July.
Happy Valley-Goose Bay town council raised a rainbow flag with members of the town's Safe Alliance, created to support local members of the Pride community, promoting respect, inclusion, diversity and equality.
"We have a safe space here with Safe Alliance, but we've got a long way to go in this community, in this province and federally," Coun. Pamela Duffett said Tuesday.
"To me, it's about just making sure that you're someone who people feel comfortable around to be themselves, You bring respect to the table always … and just making them feel like they're an important piece of this community."
Initiatives need to last beyond June, says Pride group
Trevor Taylor, co-founder and director of Fogo Island Pride, a non-profit group dedicated to providing support to members of the queer community and their allies in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, says flag-raisings can serve as a great starting point for Pride.
But initiatives and conversations need to last longer than a month, he said.
During Pride Month, Taylor said, many companies and organizations engage in "rainbow washing" — capitalizing on Pride Month support through the use of rainbow logos or advertisements but then switching back to normal messaging as soon as June ends.
"The worst-case scenario is that you have companies and organizations who are doing this during Pride Month, specifically capitalizing on the benefits that come with appearing inclusive. But really outside of Pride Month, their actions and what they're doing … really don't speak to that message," Taylor said Wednesday.
Taylor said it's important for companies and consumers to make sure conversations and messaging during Pride Month are followed up with real world action to help the queer community during the entire year.
"The bar can't simply be, 'Yes, we accept you,' and then do nothing else.… Everybody who is within the community deserves more than that," Taylor said.