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Members of Saugeen District Secondary School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) along with friends and allies joined together at the Saugeen Shores Police Services headquarters to help raise Saugeen Shores’ inaugural Pride flag, June 1.

Hub Staff

The colours of the rainbow are now waving with pride following the inaugural Pride Saugeen Shores event and flag raising ceremony June 1 at the Saugeen Shores Police Services headquarters.

Police Chief Mike Bellai opened the ceremonies by thanking everyone for coming and said he was honoured to be involved and “proud to support equality, diversity and inclusiveness in our community of Saugeen Shores.”

“Pride is about the right to celebrate the equal dignity and beauty of all people, we symbolize this today with the first annual raising of the Pride flag,” Bellai said, wishing everyone in attendance a happy Pride.

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau and Councillor Cheryl Grace wrote the resolution that was presented to Council in February to raise a flag in Saugeen Shores. When Charbonneau took to the mic June 1 he said that a former classmate had expressed his disappointment at the lack of Pride recognition in Saugeen Shores. “We were well behind the curve in doing this and it occurred to me that now more than ever we need to recognize Pride in our community.” Charbonneau noted the growing population and number of visitors who come to Saugeen Shores. “We need to send a clear message to each and every one of those people that this is an open and welcoming community,” he said.

Charbonneau proclaimed that by the raising the Pride flag, Saugeen Shores was also showing itself as a diverse community, one in which "you can be whomever you want to be, and yes, you can love whomever you want to love.”

Kai Kirkeby, a student at Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) and member of SDSS’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) read a speech written by a “dear friend” Abigail Keneer. “Pride is why we’re here today. Pride celebrates our individuality, our diversity and most importantly us as the super awesome people we are.”

The Grade 10 student continued. “For the first time our town has given us the pleasure of seeing a flag that shows us who we are,” he said. “This month is special for each and every one of us, not because we’re all LGBTQ but because we all love and we all identify,” he added.

Following the flag raising ceremony, Kirkeby said as an actor he wasn't nervous to say Abigail’s speech in front of the large crowd and felt really good about the opportunity because he felt that something like this would never happen in a small town.

Abigail said that a lot of research went into the speech and explained the importance of the high school’s GSA. “Right now it’s a really close group of a few people. It’s basically there so that we can be happy and comfort each other,” he said.

Former Saugeen Shores resident and current Vice-President of Pride London Matt Wannan travelled from London to be part of the event. “When I think of the Pride flag I especially think of kids, youth and children, many of whom are here today; and I think it’s a really important image for them because it shows them that there is love and acceptance but also when they see that Pride flag in spaces they see that there is safe places in the community for them and I think that’s really important,” said Wannan, noting a difference from when he grew up.

Wannan went on to say that he has an extraordinary amount of love and the upmost respect for young people who are a part of groups like the GSA and youth who are able to live out and be themselves.

He had also brought with him Pride London President Andrew Rosser who said he had heard rumblings in the crowd questioning whether or not the recognition of Pride in Saugeen Shores was “too little too late” and assured those in attendance that “it is never too late”.

“There’s over 70 countries where you can still be imprisoned or killed for loving someone of the same gender or being who you really are. We still have a lot of work to do. And we have to remember that homophobia, transphobia, bi-phobia live strong in all communities and we have to make sure we put a stop to that.” Rosser went on to encourage people to stand up and say “no more”. He educated the crowd on the Hear It! Stop It! campaign and encouraged schools to learn more about it.

“To all of the allies here, you are amazing, you are the reason that the people standing beside you are still here,” said Rosser, who then told story about a transgendered person from their London community who had passed away last year. “No great movement has ever been made without the support of allies,” he said.

Wearing a Pride flag, Kincardine Pride President Fort Papalia told the crowd of what it was like being an educator in Saugeen Shores and recalled students as young as Kindergarten putting people down and using homophonic slurs. Fort said he never thought he would see Pride in Saugeen Shores and thanked everyone who organized and came out to support the event. He then invited all those who identify as LBGTQ2, their allies and business owners to come to Kincardine for their Pride parade June 23.

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With Pride Saugeen Shores committee members Lindsay Darling, Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, and Councillor Cheryl Grace by his side, Saugeen Shores Police Chief Mike Bellai raised Saugeen Shores first ever Pride flag, June 1.

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Celebratory cake was served at Pride Saugeen Shores following the flag raising ceremony, June 1. From left, Luke Charbonneau, Cheryl Grace, and Lindsay Darling.

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Grade 12 student Rebecca Turi, Grade 10 student Abigail Keneer and Grade 10 student Kai Kirkeby of Saugeen District Secondary School’s (SDSS) GSA at the Pride event and flag raising ceremony, June 1.

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Megan Jackson (left), Carla Pepe, and Jenny Posthumus at Saugeen Shores’ inaugural Pride event, June 1.

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Pride London President Andrew Rosser (left) and Vice President, former Saugeen Shores resident Matt Wannan were happy to attend and speak at the flag raising ceremony, June 1.

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Holding a Trans Pride flag and a Pride flag, members of a LGBTQ2 group at Northport Elementary School were in attendance for the inaugural Pride and flag raising event in Saugeen Shores, June 1. From left, Kiersten Martin, Grade 8; Carson McNeice, Grade 7; Lauren Gilbert, Grade 8; Aliyah Petronski, Grade 8; Emma Graham, Grade 8.

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Ariella Lilly (left), Saugeen Shores Councillor and Huron-Bruce provincial Liberal candidate Don Matheson, Kincardine Pride President Fort Papalia and Gary Franklin stand in front of the Pride flag with an appropriately coloured balloon arrangement made by Port Elgin’s Main Event.

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Huron-Bruce provincial NDP candidate Jan Johnstone of Kincardine with Kincardine Pride President Fort Papalia, June 1 at the Pride Saugeen Shores and flag raising event. Kincardine holds their Pride festivities June 23.

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On the left, Police Chief Mike Bellai, June 1 at the inaugural Pride Saugeen Shores event. On the right, Port Elgin BIA President Jeff Carver (left) and Southampton BIA member Mary Lou Hills welcomed attendees and talked about the importance of Pride.

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SDSS’s Gender Sexuality Alliance supplied heart shaped, Pride coloured cookies for the occasion which several attendees were happy to enjoy.

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Over 100 people were in attendance at the inaugural Pride Saugeen Shores, June 1.

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