Sean Burke, of Central Alberta Pride, hoists the gay pride rainbow and transgender flags on the balcony of Executive Place on Ross Street. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff.

Pride flags are hoisted over Red Deer to mark 50 years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada

Local LBGTQ community are wary of Alberta’s new United Conservative government

It’s been half a century since Parliament stopped persecuting most homosexuals — and the date was observed Tuesday with the raising of gay pride and transgender flags over Red Deer.

“It’s a moment for us to reflect on the path we’ve left behind and the road that’s still left to travel,” said Jillian Best, a member of the Central Alberta Pride Society.

She was among a small group of people who hoisted the flags on the balcony of Executive Place on Ross Street to mark an important date in this country’s human rights history.

While homosexual activity was partially decriminalized in Canada on May 14, 1969 (at least for private encounters between consenting adults over age 21), the movement to stop the persecution of gays began a couple of years earlier.

Former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, who was then justice minister, introduced his controversial omnibus bill to change the Criminal Code in 1967, famously stating: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Canadian same-sex couples have since made much more progress — they can now marry, adopt children, and cannot legally be discriminated against.

But their sexuality continues to offend “less open-minded people,” said Best.

She invites these individuals to take the time to personally get to know someone in the LGBTQ community: “If you get to know us, you’ll see we’re we’re not that bad…”

Many in her community have adopted a wait-and-see attitude about Alberta’s new United Conservative government.

Some UCP candidates campaigned on the promise of permitting teachers to reveal to parents if their child has joined a gay-straight alliance at school. Students who feel unaccepted at home have said this would defeat the purpose of joining the supportive group.

Best feels protecting the privacy and safety of young people should be of paramount importance. “They need to be able to find a safe place to be themselves, to relax and be happy.”

While Best is pleased the Central Alberta Pride Society and the Trans and Non-Binary Aid Society get a lot of public support during Pride Week, “It’s important to understand that we all have people in our lives who are discriminated against — whether they are LGBTQ or from another community.

“We should all embrace our differences and learn about other people.”

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