The fledgling West Nipissing Pride group is growing in numbers and gaining momentum while celebrating a series of firsts in the northern Ontario community of nearly 15,000 people.
Council will have the opportunity at its Tuesday meeting to endorse another first for the municipality, as it is expected to recognize June as Pride Month in West Nipissing.
West Nipissing Pride President Jeremy Seguin will again wear two hats for Tuesday's meeting as he will also serve in his role as Ward 7 Councillor. Seguin says establishing the support of the municipality is another of many big, first steps the group will take together — and something Pride organizations have not been unanimously afforded.
"It's extremely important — especially when you consider what's happening in the community of Emo right now, says Seguin. "They refused to recognize Pride Month a few weeks ago and there was a massive petition. Now the municipality has, for a second time, refused to pass it once again."
Officials in the northwestern Ontario town of Emo, nestled near the borders of Manitoba and Minnesota, voted 3-2 against supporting a measure to pronounce June as Pride Month and fly the rainbow colours. Mayor Harold McQuaker, who voted against recognizing Pride, justified the decision by saying his town of just over 1,300 is a good, Christian-based community and that he had to think of his supporters when he cast the deciding vote.
'It’s a tough situation. We most certainly in the community have nothing against anybody who lives here or what their thoughts are," said McQuaker. "Democracy is made up of all different people and the majority rules."
Seguin does not foresee any such push back during the West Nipissing meeting, Tuesday, as was on display in Emo. "It is really not in line with what our community is doing at all."
Tuesday's meeting will be held via teleconference due to physical distancing regulations but an online stream will be available to the public to hear the discussion.
Seguin says the group's Facebook page will be the main source of information for interested parties and will soon have a schedule of events. This year's celebration will be somewhat muted due to physical distancing.
Two weeks ago, the municipal council approved West Nipissing Pride's plan to paint the crosswalks at the intersection of King and William streets in "pride" and "trans" colours. Seguin says the feedback has been quite supportive.
"The outpouring is so fantastic. I'd say there is a small percentage of people who write negative things," explains Seguin, "but I've been keeping an eye on it from Sudbury, West Nipissing and North Bay perspectives and I'd say an overwhelming 97 per cent of comments were extremely positive."
Another by-product of the publicity is the membership continues to grow. Seguin advises, "Thanks to the people who have reached out, we're at a point where we will eventually have to draft a comprehensive charter document and code of conduct," in line with provincial standards.
Seguin says the logistics of the crosswalk painting project are still being worked out but the group is confident it will take place during Pride Month.
"We're hoping to have it sooner than later...it will happen in June," says Seguin.