News / Winnipeg

Pride Winnipeg helps launch event north of 55th parallel

Inspired after attending the 2013 Pride Winnipeg Festival, a Manitoba woman has organized the province's first LGBTTQ Pride event held above the 55th parallel.

Expected to become an annual event, Pride North of 55 will take place June 28 in Thompson and will be the first event of its kind held in a rural Manitoba community.

“We feel that we’re making history by having this event in our community,” said Michelle Smook, organizer and chair of Pride North of 55 at launch at the Manitoba Legislature office of Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton.

“The name Pride North of 55 was chosen to encompass all northern communities in Manitoba.”

Smook, who lives in Thompson, worked with Pride Winnipeg to form an organizing committee to establish the event.

“We’d like to invite all Manitobans to come out and celebrate Pride North of 55 with us,” added Smook.

In the planning of the event, Pride Winnipeg attended public hearings for Bill 18: The Public Schools Amendment Act, also known as Safe and Inclusive Schools.

“(There was) a lot of opposition, from the rural communities especially,” said president of Pride Winnipeg Jonathan Niemczak.

“A lot of the language that we heard… words that we assumed we had moved past, but we didn’t. We sort-of had our city blinders on here at Pride Winnipeg. We assumed that the rest of the province was just as inclusive and just as progressive as the city of Winnipeg.”

Niemczak said there are only two Pride events that take place in the province, in Winnipeg and Brandon.

“That's when we came up with the Rural Pride Development Program,” said Niemczak, adding the program’s aim “is to provide resources, support, as well as access to our networks for rural communities and their planners so they can develop Pride in their own communities.”

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