THUNDER BAY -- Jackie Chesterman is seeing proof all around her that the city is becoming more open and inclusive.
Sights such as two women walking together and holding hands, something Chesterman witnessed a couple of weeks ago in a busy shopping centre, were uncommon even in the past decade.
“A few years ago you wouldn’t have seen that,” she said. “There were no comments or anything. Things are definitely more accepted than they were.”
Chesterman, along with her young son Jagger, was one of hundreds of people to participate in the second annual Thunder Pride Parade, which took marchers from Waverley Hill down to Prince Arthur’s Landing on Saturday afternoon.
The parade and ensuing Pride in the Park festival are the culmination of Pride Week, which was officially declared in the city last weekend.
One of the primary purposes of the parade are to allow people to stand up in unity and be proud of all their differences.
It also shows the general public that they are all members of the same community.
“These are ordinary people. They are people in our community and a celebration of who we are as people in Thunder Bay,” parade coordinator Rev. Scott Gale said.
“I’ve been in the Thunder Bay area for the last 25 years and certainly in the last four to five I think there’s an opportunity for people to network, be who they are, come out, be accepted and be proud.”
Fort William First Nation Chief Georjann Morriseau was the honourary marshal and Coun. Paul Pugh and Andrew Foulds were on hand to represent the city.
Having events that allow people to get out in the open and embrace who they are will enhance the understanding, says Cameron Ylimaki.
“I think they’re very important and the more we do this kind of thing the more welcoming and accepting people will be,” Ylimaki said.
“Thunder Bay has definitely grown in the last 10 years even and now it has just become a more welcoming place and it’s great. I think people are getting used to the idea and understanding what it is like to be LGBTQ.”
Along with celebrating their own individuality, participants say it is even more important to educate the next generation.
Chesterman, who is openly gay, admits finding a fostering atmosphere for Jagger is a concern when she will select a school for him when he is ready for kindergarten.
She knows Jagger might be treated different than other children but is hopeful he will be able to spread awareness and understanding through to his peers.
“Anywhere there’s going to be issues but I think if we teach him it’s okay he can teach his classmates,” Chesterman said. “My nieces and nephews are even learning that, asking why he has two moms. They just think it is okay, and it is.”
Prior to the start of the parade, an announcement recognizing Premier-elect Kathleen Wynne as the first elected gay premier in the history of the province drew a large ovation.
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