Montreal's 36th Pride Parade commemorates history of LGBTQ activism

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continued what has become a yearly tradition of walking in the city’s Pride parade, marching alongside Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Quebec Premier François Legault.

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While this year’s edition of the Montreal Pride Parade featured the thunderous cheers, colourful palettes and eye-popping costumes that typically characterize the event, it distinguished itself in its historic commemoration of the past, present and future of LGBTQ advocacy.

The parade’s three-kilometre route ran east along René-Lévesque Blvd., from Metcalfe to Alexandre-DeSève Sts. Along the way, it was impossible not to spot banners, posters and flyers honouring the 50th anniversary of the famed Stonewall uprising, when LGBTQ patrons at a bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village resisted a routine police raid.

The 1969 riots sparked a global revolution in the LGBTQ social movement, and its legacy hung heavy on Sunday’s Pride celebrations.

“Pride is about saying ‘no’ to homophobia, saying ‘no’ to transphobia and saying ‘no’ to hatred in any form,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters before the parade began.

Trudeau continued what has become a yearly tradition of walking in the city’s Pride Parade, marching alongside dignitaries such as Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Quebec Premier François Legault.

Members of the shadow cast of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball headed to the Montreal Pride Parade on Sunday, August 18, 2019. Dave Sidaway / jpg

The parade’s dedication to honouring LGBTQ history was also evident in its selection of grand marshals, which included award-winning Ojibwa-Cree author Ma-Nee Chacaby, American television star Wilson Cruz and Transgender Pride Flag creator Monica Helms.

“Tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of the day I created the trans flag, and I can’t imagine spending it anywhere other than in Montreal,” Helmes said at a news conference.

Helmes and several politicians honoured LGBTQ rights pioneer Laurent McCutcheon, who died this summer at age 76. McCutcheon was the president of Gai Écoute, a telephone help line for LGBTQ people, for over 30 years. In 2000, he founded Fondation Émergence to educate and raise awareness for LGBTQ rights.

“Laurent’s passionate and driven memory will never be forgotten,” Plante said. “I can guarantee that the city will continue honouring him and his legacy.”

However, the most poignant moment recognizing the history of LGBTQ activism happened at 2:30 p.m. sharp, when thousands of onlookers raised their fists high in the air to honour social justice pioneers and those the community has lost to violence and AIDS. While deafening cheers and blaring pop music could be heard consistently since the parade began at 1 p.m., for a brief moment, the streets were engulfed in silence and it became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, pauses for a moment of silence during the annual Pride Parade with from left, Quebec Premier François Legault, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Liberal MP Mélanie Joly and Green Party leader Elizabeth May in Montreal on Sunday, August 18, 2019. Graham Hughes / THE CANADIAN PRESS

But the parade wasn’t just about the past and present of the LGBTQ social movement; it was also about educating future generations. Indeed, a defining attribute of this year’s parade involved witnessing the sheer amount of kids who came sporting rainbow fedoras, bedazzled costumes and, of course, an abundance of glitter.

“We want to raise them to be better,” said Jennifer Grey, who brought her 10-year-old daughter Hannah to the parade.

“Homophobia isn’t something you’re born with – it’s something you’re taught. And whatever is learned can also be unlearned.”

A marcher in Montreal’s Pride Parade on Sunday, August 18, 2019. jpg