Column: Richmond needs more Pride

If city hopes to embrace racial and cultural harmony in face of rapid demographic shifts, everyone needs to be on board

On Sunday, had you gone to Downtown Vancouver, you may have noticed things got a bit “colourful.” If you stayed in the City Centre of Richmond, things were boring, dull and grey, as per usual.

Of course, what I’m speaking of is the Pride 2015 events in Vancouver and the noticeable absence of any such movement in our city.

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Last week, the Georgia Straight newspaper picked up on this noticeable gap by noting no Pride events have ever been sanctioned by the City of Richmond and the Richmond School District is one of two districts in the Lower Mainland (and part of a dwindling number province-wide) to not have explicit language protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.

I know from speaking to people in the LGBT community that Richmond isn’t a proactive community on this issue.

There are hints of progress: Transgender change rooms planned for the new Minoru pool; one LGBT youth group that meets once a week; a meet-up group known as the Lazy Lesbians of Richmond. But you get the point — there’s not much.

I suppose what irks me about the situation most is the seemingly endless message coming out of local politicians that we need to build an “inclusive” and “harmonious” community (which we do). But I contend that doesn’t happen unless everyone is on board.

At the school level, citizens elected Jonathan Ho, one of two trustee candidates to flat out say “No” to an LGBT policy. 

At least some others deflected the question. Trustee Sandra Nixon, the focus of the Straight article, has been the only elected official to publicly raise the issue.  

Buried in a 91-page city report entitled A Social Development Strategy for Richmond 2013-2022, Action 22 identifies the “short-term” need to recognize the interests and safety of the LGBT community. Over two years on, the city appears to have done nothing.

Credit Coun. Chak Au for leading the way in improving racial and cultural harmony in this “diverse” city, however, when asked if he would support a local gay pride event or parade, the conversation can best be described as like pulling teeth. 

While he finally said he supports equal rights for all, he told me he’d have to take a look at such an event at a committee level, noting costs. 

I’d argue a significant amount of taxpayer money is being funneled into items such as social development (largely race relations). Why seemingly stop and count dollars when it comes to gender and sexual orientation initiatives? 

Au told me he is excited for the upcoming Richmond World Festival, a public event intended to recognize our national, ethnic and racial differences. 

If I’m to take bets, I doubt I’ll see any LGBT-inclusive element there, much like I saw nothing at the Steveston Salmon Festival parade (meanwhile every age, nationality, ethnicity, race and physical ability seemed to have representation).

Straight columnist Craig Takeuchi noted no-one’s lining up to raise the rainbow flag at our city hall and it’s not because gay people don’t exist in Richmond — it’s because there are more welcoming places elsewhere (even Abbotsford City Hall, in the Fraser Valley’s bible-belt, raised the rainbow flag recently).

We can’t demand that race relations improve in this city, when those asking us to get on board are being politically expedient at the expense of the LGBT community.

Graeme Wood is a staff reporter at the Richmond News. 

@WestcoastWood

 

gwood@richmond-news.com

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