Vancouver’s Pride Parade could not have come at a better time for a city cementing its reputation as one of the most tolerant in the world.
On Sunday, just weeks after Russia passed anti-gay legislation in the leadup to their hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Canadians marched in support of acceptance and the LGBT community around the world.
For the first time in Pride’s 35-year run, Olympians destined to represent Canada at Sochi were a part of the parade. Snowboarder Mercedes Nicoll, and alpine skier Mike Janyk who have represented Canada at the games before, said that their walk was a part of a larger movement to grow tolerance and diversity amongst athletes on their way to Russia.
For weeks, it has been speculated whether or not Russia’s strict laws against LGBT expression would be enforced on international athletes, motivating some pro-LGBT figures to boycott the event.
“I can’t see how we can send our athletes, how we can send Canadians to a country that says we’re going to lock you up for being alive,” NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, told the CBC.
Patrick Burke, co-founder of the You Can Play advocacy group for LGBT athletes, disagreed, saying on the eve of the Pride Parade:
“Rather than boycotting the event, we can use it as an opportunity to showcase the damage of repressive governments like that of President Putin.”
The group marched in the parade with over 100 others, and many wasted no time in expressing their anger at the Russian President.
Some were seen holding signs of Vladimir Putin and his Sports Minister wearing eye shadow, blush, and lipstick. Others hoisted up signs that read “Love Russians”.