Fighting for Pride

Posted on November 9, 2010 by

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[by Gene Campbell, with Allison Brewer]

Even though this year’s Fredericton Pride Week celebrations were an outstanding success, according to organizers, the previous years leading up to the annual event haven’t always been so easy-going. Just ask Allison Brewer – long-time worker in the gay and lesbian community here in the Capital. Pride Week 2010, which ran from August 8 to 15th, was the first-ever City-supported Pride event that included the reading of the Pride Proclamation, a Pride Parade and Festival. But in years past, the City had refused to even make a Proclamation of Gay Pride Week.

“For years, Fredericton Lesbians and Gays – FLAG – have been asking the Mayor to proclaim Gay Pride Week,” said Brewer in an interview from her Halifax home. She said that back in 1992, there was a piece out in the media that said that Fredericton “does more proclamations than any other city in Canada,” said Brewer. The mayor was asked if he had ever refused a request for a proclamation and he said “no”.

Brewer said that the same year, the Proclamation was asked for, but was turned down. “I went to the Human Rights Commission with a complaint, because it was a complaint from a group, rather than an individual,” she said. “The President of FLAG, Kim Hill, was the complainant. Together, we took the complaint forward.” She said that the matter went on for some two-and-a-half years.

The activist said it was 1995 when the complaint was finally launched, adding that wasn’t until 1998 before the case was actually heard. She said a part of the mediation was that they would put an entry into the Canada Day Parade. “We did, and got a tremendous amount of support that year, and we entered another couple of years.”

Brewer said that they were asked to withdraw their complaint, and added that the mayor was also approached, “but neither side would budge. We went to a Human Rights Tribunal, which was overseen by a UNB professor Brian Bruce.”

Breer said that even in light of their victory, there was a fair bit of controversy in the community. “They wanted the Proclamation done in June – I wanted it done in November. I won out. The Proclamation was done in October. We were aware that we had won a battle against a very, very, popular Mayor.”

Brewer said there was a group of about eight who turned-up at City Hall to hear the Proclamation being read but the mayor made the decision to turn aside the mike and read the proclamation silently.

The same time the news of the “slap in the face of the LGBT community in Fredericton broke, so did the news of the incident in Laramie, Wyoming, in which a young gay man had been beaten to death because of his sexual orientation.

“Suddenly, people understood what we were talking about, ” Brewer said. “The night the mayor had to read the proclamation properly, it was a packed house in the gallery at City Hall.”

“There was never any problem in us holding a parade,”she said. “We went in the Canada Day Parade. There was a bit of rumbling within the community, but none from City Hall. The mayor has since read the Proclamation and raised the Pride flag.” Mayor Woodside showed up at the festivities at historic Officers Square, following the Parade. “He came completely unannounced.”

In 2004, Brewer received the Governor General’s Award, recognizing her years of working for the rights of the LGBT community, reproductive rights and rights for people with disabilities. “I received a letter from the Mayor, just congratulating me on winning the Award. It was such a gracious a letter and I was couldn’t help but be moved by it.” She said of the Mayor, “It is one thing to accept progress, but it is quite another thing to accept change. The Woodside story is one of change.”

Brewer was Parade Marshall at this year’s event, which wound its way along the waterfront and the beautiful St. John River, winding up in Officer’s Square in downtown Fredericton. Always active in the community, she was leader of the Provincial NDP in 2005 and 2006. Two-and-a-half years ago, she moved to Halifax, where she is a policy advisor with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council Of The Status of Women

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Posted in: Pride