Pride and Transgender flags wave on the lawn of Fernie’s City Hall. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)

Pride and Transgender flags wave on the lawn of Fernie’s City Hall. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)

Fernie Pride survey gives high(er) marks to Fernie than neighbours for inclusivity

Respondents said Fernie was more welcoming towards queer people than Sparwood, Elkford and the South Country

Fernie is more welcoming towards members of the queer community than its neighbouring communities according to a survey by Fernie Pride.

In presenting the survey’s data to the City of Fernie, administrator of Fernie Pride, Courtney Baker, said that “Fernie was identified as generally welcoming, Sparwood, Elkford and the South Country were definitively less so.”

In an assessment of the qualitative data released by Fernie Pride, the results showed that on a scale of 0 to 100 with 0 being ‘not welcoming at all’ and 100 being ‘extremely welcoming’, queer-identifying respondents in Fernie indicated that Fernie was significantly more welcoming than it’s neighbours, with 15 percent of respondents giving the community the highest rating (between 96 and 100). Less than five percent gave it the lowest score (between 0-5), while the remainder of responses leaned towards welcoming. Elkford was less lucky, with over 30 percent of respondents there giving the community a score between 0 and 10. Sparwood also saw low scores, with almost 20 percent of queer respondents giving it a 0-10 score.

Comparing queer perspectives with non-queer perspectives revealed a disconnect – while a large chunk of the queer community in Sparwood said they felt unwelcome, giving the community very low scores, less than five percent of the non-queer respondents gave it a similar score themselves.

Elkford showed a similar, but less jarring disconnect, with almost 15 percent of non-queer respondents from that community giving themselves the lowest score for inclusivity towards members of the queer community.. Fernie on the other hand was relatively close, with responses from queer and non-queer being roughly the same.

The data was gathered through a diversity and inclusion survey done last year, with 319 respondents from across the valley, including 92 that self-identified as 2queer or questioning.

The survey was done as part of Fernie Pride’s Community Capacity Project, which is a long-term project to learn about the needs of the queer community and what can be done to encourage diversity and inclusion more broadly.

The survey also found that while Fernie Pride was acknowledged as doing a good job to further community interests and engagement, there was scope for program expansion and advocacy efforts.

Focusing on Fernie responses, the report identified places where members of the queer community felt unsafe.

“Bars – especially later in the evening … people regarded them as very unsafe, unless they were in a group, and even if they were in a group,” said Baker, who added that the survey also found many people at work remained closeted, and there was a lack of inclusivity and diversity resources available.

Baker also said that members of the queer community reported they were “generally not very comfortable in Fernie in public.”

Other places where they found themselves feeling unwelcome were schools and medical facilities.

Places members of the queer community felt welcome were at Pride events, businesses with ‘Accepted’ signs, private gatherings and on social media, or “places where you would hope,” said Baker.

READ MORE: Fernie Pride to look at inclusivity across Elk Valley
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