THUNDER BAY – Residents across Thunder Bay are getting on board with a campaign designed to celebrate and support the 2SLGBTIQ+ community. Hundreds of colourful signs are popping up on local lawns as part of the Pride Lives Here campaign.
The campaign was adopted by the Thunder Pride Association after being launched by Borderland Pride, based in the Rainy River district.
Jason Veltri, Thunder Pride chair, said boosting the campaign is in part a response to the decision of the town council of Emo, nearly 400 kilometres west of Thunder Bay, not to recognize June as pride month.
Emo Mayor Harold McQuaker pointed to the Christian nature of the community in defending the decision, telling the Toronto Star that “the majority far outrules the gays.”
The episode has underlined the continued need to fight for inclusion and equality, said Veltri.
“[Pride Lives Here] was really spurred out of the troubles we’re seeing out of Emo, the misguided and homophobic comments of the mayor and two town councillors,” he said. “This just shows we do have more work to do within our community, and our rural communities in Ontario.”
On Sunday, Veltri was at Bay Village Coffee distributing the signs along with other volunteers. He expected all 300 to be gone by the end of the afternoon, with another shipment en route next week.
Thunder Pride has suggested a $5 donation for the signs, though none is required. The money will go to support local community service organizations (Veltri said more details would be announced throughout June to celebrate pride month).
The campaign is also a way to allow for a visible celebration in a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has ruled out traditional, in-person pride events. Participants are encouraged to share photos with the hashtag #YQTPrideLivesHere on social media, or by email to email@example.com.
Local leaders including city councillors, MPs, and top civil servants had joined in the campaign, which Veltri said sends an important message.
“It shows we’re moving the needle in our community towards more inclusion and more diversity,” he said.
Still, he noted, currents of homophobia are not limited to small towns, pointing to the online reaction to a proposed rainbow crosswalk in Thunder Bay.
“Emo does highlight the fact that we have more work to do – and we have more work to do in [Thunder Bay], too,” he said. “The crosswalk project highlighted hateful rhetoric that isn’t warranted anymore. It’s 2020 – we have to allow for basic human rights.”
Residents can visit Thunder Pride's Facebook page for more information on the campaign and the group's virtual pride month plans.