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'Everyone is welcome': East Gwillimbury unveils Pride crosswalk at civic centre
June 13, 2022

Things are a little more colourful at the East Gwillimbury Civic Centre. Pflag Canada York Region and East Gwillimbury launched Pride celebrations earlier this month with a Pride flag-raising ceremony and the official unveiling of a new progress Pride crosswalk at the Civic Centre.

“Raising this flag is about identifying East Gwillimbury as a diverse community,” East Gwillimbury Mayor Virginia Hackson. “A place where everyone is welcome and where we want everyone to feel that they belong.”

The crosswalk was initiated by the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee of council. The design of the Progress Pride Flag and crosswalk, comes from the 2018 design by Daniel Quasar. The new concept incorporates a black and brown stripe representing racialized members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and the colours pink, light blue and white which are used on the transgender Pride flag. This new design places greater emphasis on inclusion and progression.

PFlag Canada York Region president Tristan Coolman said while the gestures may appear small they send the right message. He recently went to Ottawa with his partner to tour Carleton University. Their exit from town was delayed by a rainbow crosswalk. “Out of the corner of our eye we saw a rainbow crosswalk and how quickly we stopped the brakes and jumped out of the car to take a picture,” he said. “It goes to show the impact a symbol like this can have on everyone’e life, especially queer people.”

It shows that the community and the leadership  there really want  to make sure everyone is welcome, Coolman said.

The location of the crosswalk right at the entrance to the Civic Centre isn’t lost on Coolman. “As you engage in local government you know that everyone is welcome. It sets a great example,” he said.

Hackson said celebrating Pride month is a reflection of the town’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “More importantly, it’s about fostering a community where every person feels they belong. As a result of our collaboration with staff, Pflag Canada York Region, and the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee of Council, a Progress Pride crosswalk was installed at the Civic Centre,” she said. “

“We are thrilled to partner with the Town of East Gwillimbury and support their installation of a Progress Pride crosswalk at their Civic Centre,” Coolman sad. “For two years Pflag York Region, CAYR Community Connections and York Pride have engaged in discussions with all of York Region's municipalities to install crosswalks and other affirming installations. These installations are a symbol of support for our community, the character of the town and its leaders and a reminder to the community at large that regardless of our differing lived-experiences, we all belong and have a place in every community everywhere."

During the month of June, the town is encouraging residents to express their messages of inclusion and belonging through sidewalk chalk messages. In support of the sidewalk chalk initiative.

The Pride flag is a relatively recent addition to the Civic Centre. The town first raised it at the Civic Centre in 2021 on the new community flagpole.

For several years, East Gwillimbury was a non-proclamation municipality, which meant it did not make proclamations or raise flags, other than the town and Canadian flag outside the civic centre.

On June 18, from noon to 11:55 p.m., there will be Pride on Riverwalk at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons.

The event will include live stage entertainment featuring local emerging artists, a main stage concert, community fair, Home Depot interactive zone, Grizzley Gardens beer garden, pop-up shops, food and picnic areas, street buskers, art installations and rock-climbing.

That same day from 3 to 5 p.m., the Pride Parade will see Newmarket’s downtown unite in the streets with thousands of people celebrating more than 100 community groups, businesses, supporters and 2SLGBTQ+ advocates.