In 2013, a flag-burning incident at a pride event in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo caused its local LGBTQ+ community to retreat from the public eye. In 2016, the municipality set out to develop a community Diversity Plan, which would outline how the municipality would meets its commitments as a member of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD). Through this process, the municipality wanted to specifically engage the LGBTQ+ community in the region.
Trust and relationship building were instrumental in connecting with the informal LGBTQ+ community in the region. Informal networks and connections were used to locate meet up groups and chat with community members. Those initial meetings highlighted a community concerned about their personal safety, feelings of marginalization, and discrimination both in the public realm and within workplaces. Community members also highlighted how the lack of an LGBTQ+ organization, pride events, and LGBTQ+ nightlife contributed to feelings of isolation and difficulty in meeting people.
As these conversations continued, there was a resurgence in the LGBTQ+ community group activity with youth at the forefront. The energy and vibrancy of LGBTQ+ youth resulted in the formation of a new group called Pride YMM. After several small successful events in early 2017, Pride YMM partnered with the Regional Advisory Committee on Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality (RACIDE) and presented to council on their plans.
A few weeks later, one of the requests to council was granted and Pride YMM and RACIDE celebrated the installation of the region’s first rainbow crosswalk. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Despite some negative comments and hate speech in Facebook posts and media article commentary, the positive response and messaging from council, residents, community organizations and businesses demonstrated the vast support for Pride YMM.
On August 26, 2017, the Pride YMM Celebration 2017 was held and hundreds turned out to show their support. Pride YMM and RACIDE plan to continue to work together in raising awareness and eliminating discrimination and barriers for the region’s LGBTQ+ community.
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