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Montreal’s Pride parade draws record numbers in day of celebration

Thousands of people marched and cheered down Montreal’s René-Lévesque Boulevard Sunday afternoon in what has become the largest Pride parade organized by Fierté Montréal to date. 

Around 15,500 people took part in the parade representing 192 different groups and community organizations, according to Simon Gamache, the executive director of Fierté Montréal. 

Parade participants waved colourful flags and blared music along a 2.9-kilometre route that began at Dorchester Square and stretched into the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village.

Among the crowd was Matthew Xanthoudakis, who was marching with the West Island LGBTQ2+ Centre.

“It feels liberating,” he said about the experience while waving a large teal and blue trans-inclusive gay men’s Pride flag.

They say the parade was a long time coming after last year’s edition was cancelled at the eleventh hour due to a significant shortage of security volunteers. 

a huge pride flag fills most of the frame. It's being held by several people marching through the streets of Montreal during the Montreal pride parade.
At 2:30 p.m. the music and cheers died down to give way to a moment of silence dedicated to those who have lost their lives to the AIDS crisis and different forms of hatred and intolerance. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

To prevent a repeat of the past, Fierté Montréal hired 208 staff members and 152 volunteers for this year’s parade, Gamache said in a news conference kicking off the celebratory march.

In June, Fierté Montréal also received $250,000 in federal funding dedicated to ensuring the safety of people at Canadian Pride events.

Gamache says though the extra money was helpful, the success of this year’s parade was due to an overhaul of the organization’s structure. Notably, critical positions that were filled by volunteers last year became paid positions this year.

He says last year’s cancellation resulted in even greater mobilization this year by Montreal’s community groups.

“They are more present than ever in the parade,” he said. 

Reasons to celebrate

Gamache added that the parade is an opportunity to commemorate previous triumphs of the LGBTQ community while bringing attention to the injustices that some people continue to face. 

Samya Lemrini says that’s, in part, why it was important for her to join the parade along with the group Helem Montreal, where she is a board member. Their mission is to support LGBTQ people in Montreal’s Arabic-speaking community and fight homophobia. 

A woman and a man stand close to each other each one holding a Moroccan flag.
Samya Lemrini, left, is a board member at Helem Montreal, an organization that supports LGBTQ people in Arabic-speaking communities. She says she is thinking of those who aren’t comfortable being out while she marches in the Pride parade. (Submitted by Samya Lemrini)

She says walking in the parade is a privilege that isn’t afforded to everyone. 

“Coming out is not a necessity for everyone,” she said. “[It’s] something we see in northern countries but in our countries, it’s something that we don’t necessarily have to go through.”

Lemrini says everyone has a different journey and that she’s thinking of those who cannot be their true selves because of their circumstances while she marches. 

At 2:30 p.m. a moment of silence dedicated to those who lost their lives to the AIDS crisis and different forms of intolerance was held.

In that moment Gamache was thinking of Roger Thibault, one half of the first couple to enter a same-sex civil union in Quebec, he told CBC News.

Thibault died Friday afternoon at the age of 77.

“He had such a great life and we were all thinking of him today,” said Gamache. 

A group of people march down the street waving pride flags during the Pride parade in Montreal on August 8, 2023.
Several people marching in Sunday’s parade spoke about feeling liberated and seen when talking with CBC News. (Kwabena Oduro/CBC)

Federal funding for five groups

Five Montreal-based organizations, including Fierté Montréal, will receive federal funding to support their work within the LGBTQ community, announced Soraya Martinez Ferrada, the newly-appointed minister of tourism and minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec, at Sunday’s news conference. 

She says $1.1-million will be disbursed between the five organizations.

“We have to make sure to create a counterweight to the rise in hate,” she said. “There are still people who think we can’t love who we want.”

The other groups that will receive this funding are Gay & Grey Montréal, AGIR Montréal, Fondation Massimadi and the Centre for Gender Advocacy.

The Fierté Montréal festival ends tonight with a closing show at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium’s esplanade. 

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