About 50 people, decked out in every colour of the rainbow, squeezed into the small meeting space of La Ronge town council last night.
They were there to support the second item on the agenda, which called for the raising of the pride flag for one month.
A motion was made by Councillor Jordan McPhail regarding that same flag two years ago, but it was defeated 4-3.
This time, people of all ages, ethnicities and origins came together to educate the leaders of their community on what the true meaning of the flag is.
“I couldn’t believe the support that the community came out with today,” says Colin Ratushniak, an organizer for the third annual Lac La Ronge Regional Pride Parade. “It goes to show that the community wants change. It goes to show the community wants the councillors to make a stance for equality and human rights.”
Mayor Ron Woytowich invited the speakers to address his council, reminding the large group of the 20-minute time limit to speak.
Before the six speakers addressed mayor and council, Ratushniak draped a large multi-coloured pride flag over their desk.
Up first was La Ronge native Jordan McKay, who is a drag performer in Saskatoon known as Cheryl Trade. He explained growing up in La Ronge, his journey about coming out to his family and friends and shared some facts about suicide rates amongst gay youth.
McKay challenged Mayor Woytowich on a recent comment where he said, “I really don’t care whether it’s (the flag) up or down,” explaining that is not the message that supports a marginalized group.
Then he moved his attention to the hard work and dedication that Councillor Matt Klassen has spent addressing the alcohol problem that La Ronge faces. Klassen has alluded to the fact that if the Northern Alcohol Strategy saves just one life, that wouldn’t it be worth it?
McKay rebutted with perhaps the flag could save just one life.
A local mother of four, with two sexually diverse children, explained the trauma and fear she faced when she heard an ambulance get closer and closer to her home, soon realizing it was for her own child who just attempted suicide for the second time.
Two youth addressed the council, one 11-years-old and one 15-years-old explaining that their peers in their schools are very inclusive and it’s time the leaders caught up.
“I really thought the councillors were going to come back with questioning on stats, but it really felt like they really took into account the education that we gave them with our speeches, and I’m really proud of what the vote outcome was today,” said Ratushniak.
The outcome of the vote was 6-1, with Councillor Dallas Everest being the only one who opposed the flag.
The original motion was to let the flag fly in front of La Ronge Town Hall for one week. It was amended by Jordan McPhail to have it up for an entire month and seconded by Councillor Glen Watchel.
“So it was a 6-1 vote in favour of raising the flag, which is a phenomenal result considering it was 4-3 just two years ago,” says Ratusniak. “But, it still shows that there is one person who still does not support or even recognize the visibility of the LGBT people. That one person who represents one person of 2,500 people in a community like this, there is still work to be done.”
Pride Month is celebrated every June to honour the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The riots took place in the early morning of June 28 outside of a bar in Greenwich Village, New York City.
City police and gay rights activists clashed in violent confrontations for two days. A year later, the first pride march took place to commemorate the riots and the activist organizations that were created because of the events.
The group of supporters is set to attend the council meeting in the Northern Village of Air Ronge on June 19 and a meeting with the Lac La Ronge Indian Band is pending.
(PHOTO: People gathered last night in La Ronge. Photo courtesy of Katrina Cameron.)