Okanagan Pride March, August 19, and Trans March, August 17
One of Canada’s top LGBTQ2 ambassadors and one of Kelowna’s most committed Pride advocates will lead marches during Okanagan Pride week, running Aug. 12-19.
Federal Liberal Member of Parliament Randy Boissonnault, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues, will serve as Grand Marshal during the Pride March on Saturday, Aug. 19, as thousands strut their stuff from Stuart Park to Waterfront Park in support of inclusion of diversity.
Wilbur Turner, a Kelowna community advocate who served as president of the Okanagan Pride Society from 2012 to 2015, will serve as Grand Marshal during the Trans March on Thursday, Aug. 17, as it winds from the Sails sculpture at the base of Bernard Avenue to the Laurel Packinghouse.
Boissonnault represents the riding of Edmonton Centre and is the first openly gay MP elected in Alberta. He was appointed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special advisor on LGBTQ2 issues in November 2016, and is working with advocacy groups across the country to promote equality for lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited people.
Turner is a well-known community advocate and Kelowna business owner who has been active in advancing the Pride movement in Kelowna. He co-chaired the 2012 Pride festival shortly after moving to Kelowna and joined the board in the fall of 2012, serving as President until 2015. Turner helped establish Etcetera, Kelowna’s drop-in peer support group for LGBTQ2 youth, and was instrumental in staging the first-ever Trans March in 2015. He also served as President of Fierte Canada Pride, Canada’s national Pride organization, from 2015 to 2017.
Youth from the Etcetera group will serve as Honourary Junior Grand Marshals during both the Trans March and the Pride March.
“It is an honour to be able to serve as the Grand Marshal for this year’s Pride Parade,” says Boissonnault. “Standing up for human rights is one of the most important responsibilities of a Member of Parliament. Pride is about declaring that no matter whom you love or how you express who you are, you are special, you are beautiful and you belong.”
“I am thrilled and honoured to be invited,” says Turner, reflecting on the first Trans March. “I could see that the transgender community was about 20 years behind the gay community in getting widespread support and acceptance. I was blown away by the community support and to see over 200 people come out for the first event. I have watched the Pride Festival in Kelowna grow from an attendance of 50 people in 2012 to in the thousands. I am proud to have been part of this exciting growth, and proud to call Kelowna my home for the past five years.”
“We’re absolutely thrilled to have two amazing advocates for our marches,” says Dustyn Baulkham, President of the Okanagan Pride Society. “In his role, MP Boissonnault will be key in helping shape public policy around LGBTQ2 issues. There’s still a lot of work to be done for marginalized groups within the queer rainbow, so it will be great to have his ear to talk about these issues, plus show him how we celebrate Pride…Okanagan style!
“And Wilbur Turner has worked tirelessly and done so much to move Kelowna forward and create safe spaces for our local LGBTQ2 community. He’s a true hero for us and this is just one way we can say ‘thank you’ for all that he’s given to Kelowna.”
The Trans March begins at 6 p.m. sharp on Aug. 17 at the Sails sculpture at Bernard Avenue and Abbott Street. The Pride March is set for 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 19 at Stuart Park. Crowds will head to Waterfront Park around 11 a.m. for the day-long Festival in the Park.
Both marches are free and open to all ages. Everyone is encouraged to wear bright colors from the rainbow.