The future of qathet Pride Society is unknown. With plenty of past successful qathet Pride events under its belt, society director John Hewson is asking the question: “Does qathet need/want pride?” And if so, “what will it look like?”
Traditionally, qathet Pride Society held an annual picnic, and in 2021, hosted more than 14 events and featured Vancouver drag queen Connie Smudge, all run by volunteers.
“With a regional population of over 21,000, countless studies indicate we live among 2,100 folks on the rainbow spectrum,” said Hewson. “The queer issues relate to all issues, really; whether that’s sexism or racism, or any kind of phobia. How do we create places where we can be ourselves?”
On April 1, the society is hosting a public meeting called the Future of PRIDE in qathet, at Powell River Town Centre Hotel, and invites the public to discuss what they would like to see.
The society has a lot of questions it wants answers to.
“Our membership is low, we have exhausted our volunteers, and if we are going to be an effective pride organization, is our role to just produce a one-day event, or a weekend event, or should events happen year round?” said Hewson. “If we are expanding beyond the one-day picnic we really need part-time or full-time staff.”
Hewson believes we live in a supportive community, for the most part, “yet some individuals are still shy and cautious to step into their true selves.”
“We have hired the facilitator Kate Sutherland, and the pride board felt that we should ask the community what they really want,” said Hewson. “There are those who say we don’t need pride; that’s one extreme, then there are those who love our events and want more.”
“If you look at the social fabric of the community, there are still those who are shy to come out or afraid. We know, for example, that Jordana Pangburn’s 2022 research at Brooks Secondary School that 11 per cent of students identify as on the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum, that they encounter daily slurs in school, and wonder how it will be to graduate and lose access to the Gay-Straight Alliance.”
Hewson is asking how safe spaces can be created for them to connect with like-minded folks? He wants the qathet region to be known as a safe space for the LGBTQIA2S+ community by working with tourism, businesses and residents, to have a role in creating a truly welcoming, inclusive, safe community for all.
“There is a rainbow register program, created by the Canadian Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and tourist establishments could be recognized and understand the needs of the queer and trans-gendered community,” said Hewson.
The pride director thinks that one way to engage [the community] would be to have sensitivity and awareness training for businesses, and even the city, to learn what it means to be a friendly space to the queer community.
“Previous pride events were volunteer run and we had one big event, a picnic in the park.”
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pride society decided to organize a variety of smaller events over two weeks.
“We realized it’s a lot of work,” said Hewson.
The meeting on April 1 will be for folks to gather and discuss what they want pride to be, he added.
“If we were to do more, how would we do it?”
The society is inviting folks, friends and allies to the community conversation from 2 to 4:30 pm at Town Centre Hotel. To find out more, go to qathetpride.ca.