Iqalummiut show their support for gays and lesbians

Iqaluit Pride will march in Toronto Gay Pride parade


About 200 Iqaluit residents nibbled hamburgers, chatted with friends and renewed their support for gay, lesbian and transgendered people in Nunavut this past Sunday at the annual Pride and Friends of Pride Picnic.

“This event is growing every year,” said Stephanie Hawkins, the president of Iqaluit Pride, as a loud cheer erupted from a delighted audience of Inuit and non-Inuit, straight and gay adults, teens, toddlers and elders gathered under a cloudless blue sky near the pavilion at Sylvia Grinnell park.

Hawkins provoked another cheer when she told them that a delegation from Iqaluit Pride will march in the June 26 Pride Parade in Toronto, one of the largest such events in North America.

Four Nunavut cabinet ministers – Premier Paul Okalik, Ed Picco, Levinia Brown and Olayuk Akesuk – mingled with the Sunday afternoon picnickers, as did Iqaluit Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik.

Underscoring the wide support that the Pride Group enjoys in the community, Hawkins read out a long list of organizations that supported the event with donations: labour organizations like PSAC, the Federation of Nunavut Teachers, and the Nunavut Employees Union, plus the Elk’s Club, the Royal Canadian Legion, and a variety of local businesses.

She said in an interview later that the Iqaluit Pride group and their allies in Friends of Pride play a big role in Iqaluit – they act as a voice for gay and lesbian people, and as a social support network.

Alison Brewer, a former president of the Pride Group who has received a Governor General’s “Person’s Case” award for her work on behalf of gay and lesbian rights in Nunavut, said she thinks this year’s Iqaluit Pride event was the best-attended yet.

“The other thing that’s nice is that there were far more gay and lesbian Inuit than were here before,” Brewer said.

She said that when she helped organize the Iqaluit Pride group’s first picnic about five years ago, she was “shaking” when she put up posters advertising the event.

But now she believes that a majority of Iqaluit residents have always supported gay and lesbian rights.

“The support was always there. Here is the show of support,” Brewer said, waving her arm at the friendly crowd gathered around her.

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