Rainbow Week of Action to close with rally in Woodstock

by | May 16, 2024

Liberal Leader Susan Hoyt among guest speakers at event in downtown Woodstock on Friday, May 17

To end the Rainbow Week of Action from May 11 to 17, Rainbow Crosswalk Inc. will host a rally in downtown Woodstock to show support for the region’s queer and trans community.

Rainbow Crosswalk Inc. founder and president Amanda Lightbody said the rally will coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It will be held at Citizen’s Square on Chapel Street, next to the L.P. Fisher Public Library, at noon on Friday, May 17.

Lightbody said organizers are finalizing a list of guest speakers and other details for the event.

She said New Brunswick Official Opposition Leader Susan Holt agreed to be one of the guest speakers. Other speakers will include a member of the Woodstock High School Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and a former resident who experienced conversion therapy.

The Rainbow Week of Action and rally fall at a moment when Woodstock’s support for the  2SLGBTQ+ community is being questioned.

The mayor and council recently approved a policy change which ended the annual placement of Pride banners in downtown Woodstock. Mayor Trina Jones explained the new policy, which limits banners to heritage and tourism groups, unintentionally affected Pride banner displays.

Rainbow Crosswalk Inc. raised concerns about the decision.

While it made an exception for the display of veterans’ banners during the lead-up to Remembrance Day, the council denied an exemption for the Pride banners.

The town displayed six pride banners along Main Street for parts of May and June for several years.

While the decision against the Pride banners may reflect only a policy change to clarify the town’s handling of requests for banners, flags, proclamations and special lights, Lightbody said the decision comes at a time of rising anti-2SLGBTQIA sentiment.

“In 2017, Woodstock held its first rally for the rainbow crosswalk, and now seven years later, it is The Rainbow Crosswalk that will be holding a rally by its residents and for its residents to express themselves about the ever-rising anti-2SLGBTQIA hate powered by far-right groups and opportunistic politicians who are scapegoating 2SLGBTQ+ people for political gain,” Lightbody explained.

She explained the Woodstock event will coincide with similar actions across Canada led by groups advocating for social and gender justice.

“Far rights groups and cynical politicians are fanning intolerance and scapegoating queer and trans people for political gain,” said Fae Johnstone, Executive Director of the Society of Queer Momentum. “Three Canadian Premiers have begun rolling back the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people. Anti-2SLGBTQIA+ hate, stigmatizing rhetoric and regressive policies are resurgent. In response, Momentum is calling for the biggest national 2SLGBTQIA+ action since Marriage Equality. We’re drawing a line in the sand. We are never going to be forced back into the closet.”

Nova Scotia MLA and President of Momentum, Lisa Lachance, raises concern queer and trans people are losing gains made over recent years and decades.

“For a long time, it looked like Canada was moving towards real equality for queer and trans people. Today, things have started sliding backward,” said Halifax Citadel-Sable Island MLA. “Our Rainbow Week of Action is an opportunity for people across the country to come together and say clearly with one voice that we want freedom and equality for all. Moms and dads, friends, family members and neighbours, we are all lifting up our voices to reject hate and advance a more free, equal and socially just future — for all our families.”

Lightbody hopes residents of Woodstock and surrounding communities will turn out to support the rally. She stressed that the mayor and council’s decision reflects only their view, not the widespread view of residents.

Lightbody hopes the controversy doesn’t paint an unfair picture of Woodstock, noting that she believes many residents and business owners still promote the town as an inclusive community.

Despite its recent Pride banner decision, the Rainbow Week of Action Rally poster notes Woodstock Town Council proclaimed the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.  

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