‘Still a lot of homophobia here’: Steinbach holds second annual pride march
Published Saturday, July 15, 2017 5:52PM CST
Last Updated Saturday, July 15, 2017 7:05PM CST
There was a large show of love and happiness on the streets of Steinbach Saturday.
People in the small southeastern Manitoba city marched in the second annual Pride parade.
Steinbach's first Pride march in July 2016 drew national attention when some politicians decided not to attend and organizers struggled to get a permit. RCMP estimated 3,000 people attended.
The crowd was a smaller one this year. Organizers said just over one thousand people walked in solidarity.
Steinbach pride co-chair Michelle McHale said a letter was sent to Mayor Chris Goertzen asking him to join the event. For a second year in a row, McHale said the city didn't officially endorse the march.
"Anybody who holds a position who was elected in this area, your presence makes a difference," she said.
"Acceptance includes those in the 2STLGBQ* community and it includes those who have differing viewpoints who also deserve respect and understanding. Although as mayor, I will not be attending this year's event, I will continue to concentrate my efforts on promoting an inclusive attitude that respects differences in our city throughout the year," said Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen in a statement to CTV News.
Although this year’s event was smaller in size, 18-year-old Mika Lynn said the event presented an equally strong message.
"This is the one place I feel totally accepted even if it is only an hour," said Lynn, who grew up in Steinbach and struggles with mental illness, partly from her experience coming out.
“There's still a lot of homophobia here,” she said.
Lynn said she'd feel nervous going on a date with a girl in public in what she calls her 'church-based community'.
Retired United Church Pastor George Feenstra watched the parade. He said he enjoys the joyful ambiance of Pride, but not everyone in his community is as accepting of sexual diversity.
“They are grabbing hold of some things to hold onto real tight and one of those things they hold onto is that the problem of the world is caused by homosexuals,” said Feenstra.
Still, many in the crowd said Saturday that change is coming to Steinbach.
“We've been around in this area for a couple of years now and we definitely see the progressiveness," said Ray Wong.
"It’s really open everywhere … everyone is opening their eyes, their minds, and accepting everyone,” said Kelly Houle, who is two-spirited and performed a healing dance ahead of the march.