On May 14, the Fernie Pride Society celebrated the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150, which decriminalized homosexuality in Canada. The event was held at Rotary Park and supported by the Elk Valley RCMP. Turn to Page A2 to read how far the Elk Valley has come since then. Phil McLachlan//The Free Press

Elk Valley pride groups celebrate milestone

LGBTQ community marks 50 years since decriminalization

Fifty years since homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada, local pride groups say the Elk Valley is more accepting than ever before.

On May 14, the LGBTQ community and Fernie Pride Society met in Rotary Park to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bill C-150. They were joined by members of the Elk Valley RCMP, who supported them in this celebration.

“It’s important, especially in small towns, to recognize that we can get together and celebrate a big, huge milestone like this,” said Sparwood woman Melissa Creelman.

Creelman and her partner were one of very few openly-homosexual couples in Sparwood when they moved to the Valley 20 years ago. She recalled the town being a much different place than it is today.

“In the beginning there was a bit of trouble, we had to deal with some stuff,” she said. “But I think [it stopped] once we just said hey, this is who we are. Because we were big community people we just jumped in there full feet and I think they realized, ‘oh, these girls – there’s nothing wrong with them’.

“I think what we’ve done has really helped to educate this Valley to be more accepting and open, and also for them – do you know who your neighbour is? Do you know and does it matter? It has changed progressively like that.”

In the late 1990s, Creelman’s partner was one of the first to receive same-sex benefits from Teck Coal after winning a case in the Supreme Court. Creelman believes this is one of the reasons the mining company is so accepting of same-sex employees now.

“From what I’ve seen, the Valley has changed tremendously,” she said.

“My partner and I, we were just in your face, this is who we are. And (we were) out in the community a lot.”

In her role as school liaison for gender identity with the School District, Creelman tries to ensure that Ecole Isabella Dicken Elementary School is an inclusive environment for youth. Creelman previously worked in a similar position with the schools in Sparwood.

She said that in small towns, it’s sometimes hard for people who identify as LGBTQ to feel included, and Creelman encouraged those people to seek out and join their local pride society. She stressed that they are always open to new members and will help support them through any challenges.

“People have to be educated and realize everybody should be included in everything,” said Creelman.

She believes that an educated community is a more inclusive one and overall a better place for everyone.

Sara Funk, alongside Kevin Allen, founded the Fernie Pride Society in December 2016 because they saw that the LGBTQ community in the Elk Valley was living under the radar.

“When we opened our doors so to speak, there was an outpouring of need,” said Funk.

“A lot of people had been waiting a long time for our services, and not just people in the community but local business owners wanting education for their staff and schools wanting education for their classes. It’s been wonderful but it’s been busy.”

Now, two and a half years later, Pride is more visible in the area than ever before. Funk says she hopes that this has changed hearts and minds. Now, she said, if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you can look around Fernie and see yourself in the town, whereas before you could not.

On the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality, Funk looked to the next 50 years.

Even though they have legal protections in Canada, she says it’s now time to change the underlying culture.

“There are businesses that can still fire people who are gay in the workplace. They can’t legally do it but maybe it’s part of their culture and they do it in a different way,” she said.

“Now we have the laws in our favour and now we need to change the underlying culture that still remains.”

Funk has hope for the next generation.

“Working with young people, teenagers specifically, they just think so differently about the world and about their sexuality, and their gender identity and expression,” said Funk. “I do think to some degree that they’re the ones who are going to come up and, I hate to say the word… but ‘normalize’ it.”

She stressed that she knows many older people who are supportive of the LGBTQ community, but added that she believes the biggest shift will come from the youth of today.

The Fernie Pride Society’s main objective is to connect people in the Elk Valley. Half of their board of directors is from Sparwood, and they are currently working to reach out and form partnerships in Elkford as well. To learn more, visit Ferniepride.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Fernie city council approves reopening of outdoor recreation spaces

Staff from the City of Fernie recommended that a non-medical cannabis retail… Continue reading

Local conservationists clean up public land near Galloway

Twenty members of the community volunteered their time for the clean up effort

Wildsight turns a sour situation into sweet online learning

The group is offering a variety of resources for home learning

Chamber launches localized workforce attraction website

The Work in Fernie website intends on bringing workers to the Elk Valley during the off season

Fernie Heritage Library sparks sweet summer fun

The library hosted their annual Lemonade Social on June 24

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Stop enforcing sex work laws during COVID-19, advocates say

There are provisions in Canada’s prostitution laws that make workers immune from prosecution, but not from arrest

Most Read