Yes. Period. It is my opinion, and admittedly I have no training in this field, that Pride events do more than merely showcase the 2SLGBTQ communities. So much more in my opinion. Pride events are, as you said, a tangible way to combat anti-2SLGBTQ sentiments. Pride events also promote the coming together of 2SLGBTQ and families and friends and supporters - and who can honestly not promote the positive coming together of our neighbours, friends and families (for any reason)?
Pride events also help to normalize 2SLGBTQ people and issues in the minds of those persons that are still out there who have not yet found it within them to realize that being a friend of the 2SLGBTQ communities is far more positive than being an enemy. You know, when I was a teenager and in my early-20s, I was a member of one of Canada's political parties and as a youth member we fighting hard for the legalization of "gay" marriage (as we called it then - admittedly that was not fully inclusive language), making anti-2SLGBTQ actions and speech a hate crime, promoting 2SLGBTQ candidates for public office, and demanding that schools initiate proactive anti-bullying policies and campaigns. For me, these were just unarguable positions to take. For some members of my family, however, (usually older members) this was all absurd talk. While I will never belittle or ignore the pain and suffering that occurred in the past when anti-2SLGBTQ were widely held, I do see it as a positive that 20 years later those same older relatives have largely all changed their views. The sky did not fall with "gay" marriage. Same-sex couples who adopted do not all produce 2SLGBTQ children. Politicians that make a big deal out of not attended Pride events are seen as looking silly. I am happy with how far some of my family has come on these issues. And that is not to say that there is not a long way forward, but I say it because it is through public events and public discussion and public debate that these views have, over time, changed and I do think there is a positive side to that story.
I am personally dismayed about the position taken by the Town of Petawawa to not fly a Pride Flag. And I do not accept their reasoning that they have simply taken a blanket approach to not promote any issues or communities or groups. The Town of Petawawa has seen fit to change the name of a park because it misappropriated an indigenous name. Like the flying of the Pride Flag and the proclamation of Pride Month, the changing of the park name is a recognition of a historical wrong and supportive of reconciliation. You cannot pick and choose when to be supportive and when to tape your mouth shut on an issue and think that that makes you look even handed - it makes you look inconsiderate and daft. We should all be supportive of all of our communities all of the time.
Pride events and initiatives are important for our community. Period.
First and foremost, as a lawyer I feel that our police, and our crown attorneys, have not made as full use as they could of existing hate crime legislation. I recognize that such laws are, in the grand history of Canadian law, newer and I recognize that a lot of people still have concerns about how you draw the line between illegal hate speech and hate motivated actions and permissible public debate on issues that people don't always agree on in a free and democratic society. What I would say to that, however, is that not using tools because you are afraid as to where the line is, means that we lose opportunities to test those questions and find and define those lines. I think, when in doubt, police should lay the charge and allow the lawyers and the courts to then review it. If a charge is not laid, however, then nothing happens. If a charge is laid, it can always be withdrawn if thought to be outside the scope of the intention of the hate crime law.
Municipally, there are not many areas of jurisdiction that can address these issues directly - not like the criminal code can federally or human rights codes can provincially. The Municipal Act, 2001 does, however, grant municipalities the right to pass by-laws on matters that relate to (a) health, safety and well-being of persons and (b) protection of persons. Section 10 also grants the following broad power: A single-tier municipality may provide any service or thing that the municipality considers necessary or desirable for the public.
I believe that the City of Pembroke should continue to support and promote Pride events. I believe that the City of Pembroke should condemn, in the clearest of ways, hate speech and the spreading of false information. I believe that the City of Pembroke should consider what partnerships may be available to provide education and information to the public to combat false information and to discourage anti-2SLGBTQ behaviour.
I know that there is no magic wand that the City can waive to stop all forms of anti-2SLGBTQ behaviour - I wish that there was. But with continued effort, continued education, continued condemnation of bad and inappropriate behaviour and continued pride (and Pride) in our community, I am confident that it can continue to get better.
I would also, more importantly, love to hear from you how you think the City of Pembroke can be a partner in this fight against hate. One of the hardest things I have encountered as a "politician" is being asked what I would do about something. I would much rather commit to looking at a matter than decree a position. To some that may seem like fence sitting, but the reality is that I don't share everyone's problems, concerns, goals or wants. I am one person. I would much rather commit to having discussions about matters, learning about issues, and hearing what people living different lives than I am living need so that results can be found. It is not because I don't want to take a position, it is because sometimes I don't have the personal knowledge and experience to believe that I can take an informed position.
So all that is to say that I would love to hear from you further, I would love to get specifics, and I would love to know what you need so that I can better serve you. I know I am wavering on this answer a little, but I don't know what I don't know, but you will always find in me a friend to the 2SLGBTQ communities and I will always be there to hear you out.
It is my position that all community leaders should constantly educate themselves about their local communities and the people that make up those communities. I think safe space training, education about 2SLGBTQ issues and people, and education about other marginalized groups should be mandatory for councillors and municipal staff (although I will concede that I do not believe that the Municipal Act, 2001 or the Municipal Elections Act can disqualify an elected official who refuses - but it should be mandatory).