WENTWORTH CREEK, N.S. — Tears welled up in the eyes of several spectators gathered to watch a rainbow Pride flag be hoisted for the first time outside the West Hants municipal complex.
For 21-year-old Tara Lee Brightman, it meant the world to see the county proudly display the flag on Sept. 18.
“As a mother myself, I want my child to be able to come to me with her partner… whoever they are and not be scared of me judging her or her family judging her. Things like this... are going to make her feel more comfortable and make everyone just happier,” she said.
She described the brief morning ceremony as an emotional one steeped in importance.
“It’s so people can walk around the town and be themselves and not be afraid to be who they are,” she said. “Walk around holding their boyfriend’s hand and someone is not going to yell across the street at them. That stuff does happen and hopefully it won’t anymore.”
West Hants Coun. Jennifer Daniels led the charge in having the municipality embrace the LGBTQ+ community. On July 10, council voted unanimously to hoist the flag in conjunction with Halifax's celebrations and will do so annually.
“Part of our mission is to promote our sense of community. Raising the Pride flag makes a clear statement which speaks volumes to the municipality’s dedication to all our citizens. It symbolizes acceptance, peace and diversity, which reflects Canadian values and also helps strengthen our rural communities,” Daniels told the crowd gathered for the flag raising ceremony.
“While everyone may know someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, not all LGBTQ+ people feel comfortable or safe being open with their sexuality,” she continued.
“People continue to experience discrimination, harassment and stigma on their sexual orientation or gender identity and feel excluded. Raising the Pride flag is about changing that experience.”
Kings Hants MP Scott Brison, who was Canada's first openly gay cabinet minister and fourth openly gay sitting MP, couldn’t attend the ceremony but submitted remarks that were read by Warden Abraham Zebian. Brison said it’s great to see the Pride flag flying in communities throughout the region.
“We certainly are blessed to live in such an open, inclusive, and progressive country where so many citizens believe that love is love. I applaud West Hants council for their commitment to ensuring that all residents feel included and supported in the community,” he wrote.
The long-time politician noted that the government has worked hard to end all forms of discrimination, citing several recent examples, including the passing of Bill C-66, “which puts into place a process to permanently destroy the records of convictions relating to consensual sexual activity between same-sex partners that is lawful today.”
Brison said while Canadians have made leaps and bounds over the years when it comes to eradicating homophobia and discrimination, there’s still more that must be done.
“The work by our government has built on decades of efforts by Canadians from across the country to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ citizens and while we have made great strides in this nation towards eliminating homophobia and transphobia from our society, we still have considerable challenges ahead of us,” he wrote. “I look forward to continuing to collaborate with committed citizens like you folks there today to build a more inclusive and equitable community, province and country. “
Ameilia Brightman, who helped launch the Hants County Pride Facebook group with her father, Stephen Brightman about a month ago, said she’s hopeful residents and visitors to the county will feel safer knowing there are allies all around.
“Myself, I was never scared of not being accepted. I grew up in a very accepting family. But as I put myself more into the community, I’ve seen the struggles of the community itself,” she said, noting there are still people who are worried about coming out to their friends and family.
She hopes people will feel more comfortable and confident knowing there is love and support throughout Hants County.
The Pride flag is currently flying at the municipal office, which is located at 76 Morison Dr., in the Windsor-West Hants Industrial Park.