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Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, left, recently came out as gay. Photo: Jonathan Di Carlo/Fulcrum

Capital Pride expected more than 65,000 attendees on the eve of the parade

The annual Pride festivities hosted by Capital Pride in the Ottawa-Gatineau region culminated in the Pride Parade, which took place in downtown Ottawa Sunday. It was with love, comradery and solidarity for the 2SLGBTQ+ community that Ottawans took to the streets of the nation’s capital to celebrate Pride. 

Amid the endless crowd, carrying rainbow apparel of all shapes and sizes, the love from the community could be felt in the air. Whether it was the signs such as “free mom hugs” or “you are loved,” members of Ottawa’s 2SLGBTQ+ community found solace in the support.

Both spectators and participants of all ages took part in the celebrations featuring 190 groups, according to Toby Whitfield, the festival director for Capital Pride. Whitfield noted Capital Pride was expecting more than 65,000 attendees — its largest number of participants ever. 

This year’s Pride festivities mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in the summer of 1969, which propelled the gay rights movement into a fervent five decades of activism in the pursuit of equal rights. 

Whitfield said the anniversary is a “great opportunity to pause and reflect on the work [of the 2SLGBTQ+ community], both globally but also here in Canada” adding that “the 2SLGBTQ+ community has made a lot of strides, but there is still work to be done.” 

This year’s festivities centred around the theme “In the Spotlight” and aimed to emphasize “individuals and organizations that work year-round to build a more inclusive community,” according to Capital Pride. 

As a part of their effort, Capital Pride honoured one of the University of Ottawa’s own — Dillon Black (they/them) — as grand marshal for this year’s parade. Marshal is a PhD student in the University of Ottawa’s criminology department. Their research hopes to “interrogate surveillance and resistance of queer and trans communities in Canada through the intersections of privacy, technology, and gendered violence,” according to Capital Pride. 

The festivities on Sunday morning launched with remarks by Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna, alongside Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, Davy Sabourin and Toby Whitfield from Capital Pride, and Michael Crockatt, president of Ottawa Tourism. McKenna announced that the Liberal government would be donating $200,000 over the next two years to Capital Pride. 

“We are way better together and that includes standing with the LGBTQ community,” McKenna said. According to McKenna, this is the largest donation ever for Capital Pride. Crockatt highlighted that Ottawa is no stranger to large gatherings for LGBT causes, as it hosted the first large scale gay rights march in 1971. 

Watson said that although he has participated in many Pride parades since his first term as mayor, this year’s parade would be special for him because it would be his first as an out gay man. Watson came out on the eve of the Pride Festival in an opinion column published in the Ottawa Citizen. 

The Pride festivities kicked off on Aug. 18 and drew to a close with the parade on Sunday.