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The York Pride Festival: LGBTQ Awareness in York Region

This month, we want to celebrate the differences that make us all special and unique, no matter who you love or the type of gender that you choose to express in yourself.

As evidence of this acceptance of different gender orientations and sexualities, one should look no further than the evolution of Pride marches and movements, which spans from Vancouver to Toronto to New York. But did you know that there is also a Pride group right here in York Region with their own set of Pride-themed events?

The first York Pride took place during June 10th to 16th, 2001. This was the first designated Pride Week within York Region. The celebrations included guest speakers and a gala dance with a wrap-up party at the Sharon Community Centre. One guest speaker, George Smitherman, MPP for Toronto-Rosedale, noted in his speech that “Being out in Toronto has been relatively easy for me… but that isn't necessarily the case here. You've all taken risks to be out and I salute you!" By the next year, Newmarket Town Council raised the rainbow flag; slowly other municipalities joined in this tradition.

Picture: The first Rainbow Flag being flown in front of the City of Newmarket town hall. Photo credit: York Pride 2002.

The City of Vaughan, and the Towns of Markham and Newmarket flew the rainbow flag, officially marking Pride Week in 2009. The Aurora and Georgina raised the rainbow flag the following year. Then in 2011, the City of Richmond Hill not only flew the flag, but also accompanied it with the regions first-ever flag raising ceremony.

York Pride has also participated in other GTA events, including marching in Toronto Pride Festival during Pride Week in 2008, and has continued to do so ever since that time. York Pride’s mission is to “organize festivals, events, entertainments and other initiatives which, in the context of sexuality and gender identity, across York Region and beyond, illuminate and celebrate human diversity, captivate the general public, inspire inclusivity and foster harmony and acceptance”(York Pride, 2020).

On the first of June, the Town of East Gwillimbury set up the Pride flag at the Civic Centre. As well, York Pride had their digital launch party on June 1st. Their associated website with all the virtual events that they have to offer will go live in one (1) day! Head on over to their website tomorrow to engage in all their virtual program offerings:

We hope you choose to have fun with York Pride this week!

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