Thousands of people came out to celebrate LGBTQ pride at the annual parade through downtown Montreal.
The parade caps off 11 days of festivities in the 36th edition of Montréal Pride.
“I am always happy to be home in Montreal for Pride,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who attended the parade alongside Quebec Premier François Legault and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.
Trudeau, who regularly marches in the parade and pride events, including those in Toronto and Vancouver, said it was important to have representation from all levels of government there.
A petition circulated ahead of the parade sought to have Legault stay away because of his government’s policies on immigration and religious symbols.
“We believe he is not an ally of the community,” said Sam Kaizer, one of the organizers of a separate march protesting Legault’s participation.
He said attending the parade seemed like more of a “marketing strategy” for the premier.
“He is basically attacking a small community that is unable to defend itself against the majority,” said Kaizer.
Montréal Pride said in a statement that it invites elected officials to attend every year, and that it is the politicians’ decision whether to attend or not.
For his part, Legault said that the protesters represented a small minority of the LGBTQ community.
All federal party leaders were present except for Conservative Party of Canada Leader Andrew Scheer and People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier.
Some members of the LGBTQ community protested the parade, saying Montreal Pride doesn’t do enough to include people of colour.
Champagne and about a dozen others marched ahead of the parade, brandishing signs that read “decolonize Pride” and “Pride is a gentrification institution.”
Montreal Pride acknowledged in a statement Friday that more needs to be done in order to respond to the concerns of racialized people.
One of the parade’s Grand Marshals, Monica Helms, is a transgender activist and the creator of the transgender flag.
300,000 in attendance
“This is a very important parade for the advancement of LGBT rights, to attain full acceptance and recognition,” said Montréal Pride president Éric Pineault.
“We are now one of the six largest festivals in Quebec … we see that the population is behind us.”
About 12,000 people marched the 2.7-kilometre stretch along René-Lévesque Boulevard into Montreal’s Gay Village.
Organizers said some 300,000 people were in attendance.
Line Chamberland, sexology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal, said much progress has been made in the last 50 years, but that progress is not felt in the daily lives of all LGBTQ people.
“In schools, in hospitals, in the workplace, many challenges remain,” she said as she was preparing to march in the parade.
She said discrimination remains for racialized and disabled LGBTQ people in particular.
‘Diversity is a strength’
Québec Solidaire co-spokesperson Manon Massé said that parade is an opportunity for people to come together, and called on the premier to listen to the concerns of those who had wished he stayed away.
“I think that Canada, and Quebec in particular, is well positioned [on LGBTQ rights] but we must have days like this to have all our allies come and say that they believe that diversity is a strength and not a weakness,” said Massé.
She said that more work must be done for some in the community, such as transgender migrants who have difficulty changing their sex on government-issued identification.