OTTAWA, June 23, 2017 – AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said today he was honoured to accept an invitation to march in Toronto’s 37th annual Pride Parade on June 25th and he looks forward to becoming the first AFN National Chief to march in the parade.
“Toronto’s annual Pride events and Pride Month are excellent opportunities to celebrate diversity and respect for LGBTQ2S individuals throughout history and today,” National Chief Perry Bellegarde said. “We need more support for the LGBTQ2S community across Canada and amongst Indigenous communities. We have to do more to make sure LGBTQ2S youth and adults feel positive about their future, feel welcome in their communities, and know that they are accepted and valued.”
In pre-contact times, the Two Spirit People were called the Gifted Ones. Carrying both male and female spirit, these individuals were believed to have received supernatural intervention in the form of dreams and visions. Balancing masculine and feminine energies, they restored harmony through their roles as marriage counsellors, mediators, adoptive parents, caregivers and medicine people.
The last year has marked many milestones for First Nations LGBTQ2S. Last spring the city of Winnipeg hosted a Two-Spirit pow-wow, the first in Pride Winnipeg’s 30 year history. Additionally, the Saskatchewan’s Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation hosted a Two-Spirit Festival which included raising the pride flag and a parade.
According to the National Aboriginal Health Organization, a recent report found that Two-Spirited people are more likely to experience violence than heterosexual First Nations. They are twice more likely to experience all forms of assault than LGBT people in the general population.
This year marks 37 years of Pride events in Toronto and its second Pride Month. The theme for this year’s event is “the pluses” that LGBTQ2S people add to their community, country, industries, businesses, and families. Pride Month launched on June 1 and features programming and events throughout the city, culminating with the annual Pride Parade on June 25. Last year’s parade was the biggest to date and saw thousands of Canadians watch the first sitting Prime Minister march in Toronto’s Pride parade. Over 200 organizations are expected to be a part of this year’s Pride parade, the largest in North America.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.