WN Pride builds on success, brings even more awareness in second year

MP Marc Serré, councillor Lise Sénécal, WN Pride president Renée-Anne Paquette, WN Pride director Michel Gervais, and Mayor Joanne Savage at the second pride flag raising at Minnehaha Bay, June 5th.

For the second year, Pride is being celebrated in West Nipissing. West Nipissing Council unanimously proclaimed June as Gay Pride month after a presentation from WN Pride Committee members Lynne and Michel Gervais on June 1st. The mother-and-son duo presented an overview of last year’s successes, their goals, as well as this year’s events.

“Our goal really is to promote unity, inclusion, and awareness of sexuality and gender diversity in our community,” said Lynne Gervais. She explained that through Pride Month activities, they hope to instill a sense of community and create a safe space for LGBTQ2+ people and their allies. Last year, the committee heard from LGBTQ2+ people who grew up in West Nipissing but moved away because they did not feel as though they belonged, or who felt unsafe because of their sexual or gender identity. “They’re actually rethinking this now because of our committee,” she beamed. “We wanted to bring that forward to council because I think it’s great if we could work together […] and be able to bring people back to our community!”

After the presentation, councillors were unanimous in offering praise and support for the committee’s initiatives. Councillor Chris Fisher took the opportunity to learn from the committee. “I just have one quick question and I’m almost embarrassed to ask because I don’t know … so LGBTQ, I understand, but what is the 2S on the end of that?” he asked. Michel Gervais explained that the 2S stands for two-spirit, a gender identity used by some Indigenous people who identify as having both a masculine and feminine spirit. He then took a moment to define the rest of the LGBTQ2+ acronym: “l for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, q is for queer, 2S for two-spirit, a for asexual, and plus for [all other identities]”.

The committee has seen some new faces added to their group over the last year. Councillor Yvon Duhaime took the time to point out that the group’s leadership are outstanding and affirmed his support. Currently the committee is composed of volunteers Renée-Anne Paquette (President), Lynne Gervais (Vice-president and Treasurer), Sandee Guindon (Secretary and NBPS Health Unit rep.), Directors Luc Charles, Michel Gervais, Pierre Bourgouin, Ryan Conway, Sara Mailloux, Alex Gingras, Marie-Josée Mailloux, Mélanie Hebert (Collège Boréal representative), and Joanne Savage (municipal council rep.).

Councillor Lise Sénécal also chimed in: “What I really appreciate is that you’re making it possible for youth to feel able and feel comfortable to live who they are in our community and to live in safety. I think you have a lot of support.” She added that she’s confident that in ten, fifteen years from now, the community will be a safer and more welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people, thanks to the Pride committee.

Renée-Anne Paquette and Michel Gervais raised the flag on June 5th at Minnehaha Bay.

Last Saturday, June 5th, the committee raised the rainbow Pride flag at Minnehaha Bay in a small ceremony attended by the committee and dignitaries, including Mayor Joanne Savage and councillor Lise Sénécal who each read the proclamation in English and French, and by MP Marc Serré who congratulated the committee and spoke about the importance of supporting the mission of WN Pride to foster inclusion and celebrate diversity. “Today the message is celebration, celebrate our diversity, [see] what we can do together to make a difference,” Serré said. The ceremony was well attended virtually and has since reached over 1,600 views.

On June 12th at 1 PM the committee will be live streaming the unveiling of a pride mural created by Tracey Decaen at Queen and King streets). “We want people to come and check it out during their walks and take some pictures – it will be an interactive piece,” invites committee president Renée-Anne Paquette.

WN Pride also launched a collection of “Love is Love” pride-coloured t-shirts and merchandise and are now inviting the community to show their pride by wearing their tees, or any rainbow-themed clothing, every Friday in June. Michel Gervais said he hopes that many community members will participate to “show [their] support for the queer community and [the] committee.” The t-shirts and merchandise are available at Stop & Shop and Stich n’ Love.

The committee also invites the community to decorate their windows to celebrate Pride. Those who post a photo of their pride-themed décor and tag the WN Pride Committee Facebook page, run a chance to win a family gift basket, which will be awarded to the window with the most likes. Entries will be compiled, and the winner announced at the end of June.

Local drag queens Jenna Seppa and Quinta Sential are excited to present their first-ever drag show in West Nipissing, though presented virtually this year. On Friday, June 18th, the duo will be entertaining the 19 and over crowd during “Drag n’ Sip: Stuck in the ’80s”. The queens plan to sing, dance, and make a few cocktails – all to some great 80s hits. Those interested in tuning in, can purchase a $5 ticket on the WN Pride Committee’s Facebook page, with all proceeds going to the committee for future celebrations.

“We’re hoping that next year we can finally have our Pride parade,” Michel Gervais declared. Their hopes for a parade were quashed last year, and this year due to the pandemic. However, that only forced them to be more creative in coming up with activities and ways to raise awareness. They hope this year’s activities will help further their mission of making West Nipissing a place where LGBTQ2+ people are welcomed. “We want [LGBTQ2+ people to] feel as if they belong and are respected in this community just as much as anyone else,” concluded Michel.

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