Kristyn Wong-Tam, the Ontario NDP's Critic on 2SLGBTQ+ Issues is weighing in on the decision by North Bay Pride to forego the traditional parade scheduled for the organization's September Pride Week to hold a march instead.
"In response to the alarming rise in hate both in person and online, North Bay Pride has decided not to hold the traditional pride parade this year," the organization announced on Monday. "Instead, the organization will return to the streets with a united march for equity and inclusion, sending a powerful message against the denial of someone's identity and the hate that accompanies it."
This year's local Pride Week runs from September 13 to 17.
"I am heartbroken to think of the young Queer and Trans Ontarians who will now not get to go to their first full Pride in their home city due to safety threats," Toronto Centre MPP Wong-Tam says via news release. "I am also discouraged to hear about the lack of action and engagement from North Bay’s local MPP on this matter. Intentional or not, this sends a clear message to Ontarians that if you are Two-Spirit, Queer, or Trans, this government will not have your back."
Jason Maclennan, North Bay Pride's communications director echoes Wong-Tam's sentiments and says the organization is "disheartened" by the reluctance of Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli and the Ford government to engage in dialogue with the community about the escalating hate, threats of violence, and daily physical violence faced by the 2SLGBTQ+ community.
"This lack of willingness to address the issue only perpetuates the problem," Maclennan states.
Maclennan adds Ford has not shown support for legislation to establish safe zones for the community, which would help prevent violence against marginalized voices. The organization has repeatedly invited Premier Ford to engage in a discussion with Pride groups across Ontario, but he has yet to respond.
"Ontario’s New Democrats have been sounding the alarm for the past year about growing threats, especially the rise in harmful rhetoric and hateful rallies," Toronto Centre MPP Wong-Tam says via news release. "We have called on Ford's Conservatives for action and even tabled legislation that would give the provincial government real tools to protect our communities."
Wong-Tam is referring to Bill 94: An Act to enact the 2SLGBTQI+ Community Safety Zones Act, 2023 and to establish the Ontario 2SLGBTQI+ Safety Advisory Committee. Wong-Tam is a co-sponsor of Bill 94.
The Act passed its first reading stage in April. If passed into law, it would allow the Attorney General to designate 2SLGBTQI+ community safety zones. The Act prohibits persons from performing an act of intimidation within 100 metres of the boundary of a property that is designated as a 2SLGBTQI+ community safety zone. Every person who contravenes the prohibition is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $25,000.
The Act also provides for the establishment and composition of an Ontario 2SLGBTQI+ Safety Advisory Committee. The Act requires the Ontario 2SLGBTQI+ Safety Advisory Committee to make recommendations with respect to various matters relating to improving the safety of and preventing hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents against Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and additional sexually and gender diverse people in Ontario. The Act also requires an annual report setting out the findings and recommendations of the Ontario 2SLGBTQI+ Safety Advisory Committee.
"I want to thank North Bay Pride for their difficult work and courage to make the decision that they believe is necessary to keep their communities safe," Wong-Tam concludes.