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North Bay Pride march about family, diversity and inclusion

'It means so much to me to see all of these people support us and be here for us as a community' Jaylan Leblond

You could hear the music, whistles, singing, laughter and the loud enthusiastic conversations more than a block away.

The noise came from the countless number of people who gathered with family, friends, coworkers and loved ones outside North Bay City Hall waiting for the start of the 3rd annual North Bay Pride  March.

Jaylan Leblond has walked every year.  

“It means so much to me to see all of these people support us and be here for us as a community,” said Leblond.

As a young person who is part of the local LGBTQ2+ community, Leblond has faced situations which have left her fearful for her personal safety.  

“It depends on where you go to school really. I go to Chippewa and I run our Pride club there, so it is a lot better than other places. But as a youth, it is rocky. There are moments where you think you might not be safe just because you are a youth and I am a woman, so somethings it is a little harder that way. But there are moments when you think you might be targeted. We have strived as a Pride committee to make things safer and make North Bay better. “

One young person who asked to only be referred to as “Angel” like the costume she wore, used a stencil to transfer a peace symbol on the hand or arm of anyone wanting one.

“This is amazing. There is so much support. It is great. The crowd is good, and it is a diverse group. I’m glad that we’ve all come together, and we can celebrate.”

A group of young people who referred to themselves as “Northern Paws” wore full furry mascot style headwear.

“It is just for fun. Some of us express ourselves differently and some of us have issues coming out and being ourselves. Putting these on is like being a different person.”

Nick George, co-chair of North Bay Pride 2019 was encouraged by the amount of support offered by the community.

“It has been fantastic. I’ve had people come up and thank me for doing what I do and telling me that I’m brave. I just love doing what I do,” said George.

In keeping with the family theme, parents Samantha and John Hamilton and their children Hannah and Jeffrey who identify with the LGBTQ2+ community were this year’s Grand Marshals.

“We chose the Hamilton family because they have come through diversity and adversity. We have a different theme every year and we picked family because family is important, but as many have experienced, a family doesn’t always mean being related by blood.”   

Jason Maclennan of the North Bay Pride committee went one step further.

“Your family is your family, and you are supposed to accept them unconditionally. There is not supposed to be any judgment within a family, especially for your kids,” said Maclennan.

“So many youth today are kicked out because they’re part of the LGBT community. They account for a big part of homelessness in Canada. It is called couch surfing and it is one of those numbers that does not get counted and that is what it is about.”

Maclennan says Pride is more than just a celebration.

“It is good to celebrate where we are and some of the accomplishments that have taken place, but it is also recognizing that Pride has a place of activism, and fighting for equality and fighting for communities, fighting for marginalized people, persons of colour. We can’t forget that is the basis of what Pride actually is.”

Young and old walked in the sweltering heat from city hall to Main Street on to Memorial Drive ending at the North Bay waterfront for a free family picnic sponsored by the North Bay and District Labour Council.

“We want to make sure that the workplace is safe for everyone. And we want to make sure that we protect the people who need to be protected and as labour, that is what we do,” said Henri Giroux president of the local labour council.

“That is why it is important for us to be part of Pride and to do this march and to do a free picnic at the waterfront. This is our third year doing this and there is still a good response.”