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‘A place where all persons are treated with dignity and respect’

Storm predictions cancelled Saturday’s family-friendly Fruit Float on the Red Deer River, but it couldn’t sink Red Deer’s enthusiasm for the 2014 Central Alberta Pride weekend.

The celebration kicked off at City Hall Park on Friday where more than 60 people came out to hear Red Deer Deputy Mayor Dianne Wyntjes officially proclaim the city “a place where all persons are treated with dignity and respect.”

She listed many steps taken in Canada towards the elimination of discrimination based on sexual orientation including amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada to decriminalizing homosexuality in 1969 and the right of same sex couples to marry in 2005.

Wyntjes also recalled how a lab instructor at a private Christian college in Edmonton who lost his job because he was gay ultimately won his case in 1998 before the Supreme Court of Canada who ruled that Alberta’s exclusion of homosexuals from its Individual Rights Protection Act was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Rachel Notley, Alberta NDP leadership candidate, said Alberta still has work to do.

She said when the province reluctantly amended the Individual Rights Protection Act (now called Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act) to protect gays and lesbians in 2010, it also gave parents the right to complain if teachers talk about how human rights include sexual orientation.

“A parent can now file a complaint against the teacher for having that conversation — that’s only in Alberta. Even though we added the specific protection in the (Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act), we did it at the same time that we provided that provision so it’s quite offensive,” said Notley who attended Red Deer’s proclamation.

“We gave with one hand and we took away with the other in Alberta.”

She said anyone running for premier needs to make a commitment to remove that provision upon becoming premier.

“We need to do everything we can in Alberta to promote inclusion and to celebrate diversity as enthusiastically as we can,” said Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona.

Last year, former mayor Morris Flewwelling proclaimed Pride weekend in Red Deer for the first time in the city’s history.

“It was important for me to come out this afternoon to support what we started last year,” said Flewwelling who attended Friday’s proclamation ceremony.

“I come less as former mayor Morris Flewwelling and more as Morris Flewwelling who believes that our community should be open and equal to everybody and welcoming to everybody.”

He said diversity has enormously enriched the community.

Tony Jeglum, co-chair of Central Alberta Pride Society, said he looks forward to the day when pride events are unnecessary because “gay people are treated as equally as left-handed people.”

He said until that time, Central Alberta Pride Society will work to include events in more communities in the region. This year Sunday’s church service was held in Lacombe.

“We are trying to be Central Alberta Pride, not just Red Deer Pride,” Jeglum said.

And hosting family-friendly recognizes gays of all ages and gay families, he said.

Organizing Central Alberta Pride 2015 will start at the annual general meeting at the Golden Circle, 4620 47th Ave., on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Board elections will be held.

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