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This northeastern Ontario town is celebrating its first Pride month
NORTH BAY -- A Northern Ontario municipality is celebrating its first ever pride month.
West Nipissing, located between North Bay and Sudbury, started its celebration with a physical distancing flag raising ceremony June 4 at Minnehaha Bay Marina.
Cheers erupted from LGBTQ2S members and allies, as they watched the pride flag blow in the wind.
"There is now a symbol in our community that can show people we are open to everybody, and we are here for everybody," said Sara Mailloux, who identifies as bi-sexual.
Municipal council endorsed the idea at its virtual meeting June 2, proclaiming June, 2020 as Pride Month - a first in the municipality's long history.
"It was time. 2020 will be part of the history of West Nipissing," said Mayor Joanne Savage at the flag raising. "I know that last year, when they hosted an event in North Bay, seeing posts on Facebook, I thought why not West Nipissing?'"
West Nipissing is one of the first smaller northern communities to celebrate Pride Month. The local pride committee says other smaller municipalities in Ontario have been in contact with them expressing support.
The pride committee just formed in April. President Jeremy Seguin says there will be several community Facebook events leading up to a virtual concert on June 15.
"The more awareness we have in smaller communities, the less ignorance will be spread," said Seguin. "I'm hoping that we spearhead a movement in smaller communities."
Seguin says it's a big win for LGBTQ+ members, who see the flag as a symbol of hope for inclusion.
"There were a few things that happened growing up in school," said LQBTQ+ member Michel Gervais, who identifies as gay. "With that pride flag, people that are in similar situations as me growing up, now, have a chance to find safer spaces."
Michel's mother, Lynne Gervais, says her son was emotional when the flag was raised.
"I was very grateful that our son was able to tell us he was gay at the age of 15. I know how difficult it can be," said Gervais.
A downtown intersection crosswalk at King Street and William Street will soon bear the rainbow colours of the Pride flag.
Seguin says the flag now symbolizes West Nipissing as an inclusive community that accepts everyone for who they are.