UW Celebrates Canada 150 & EngSoc Joins TO Pride Parade!

Jessica Keung Cameron Soltys - 4A Civil & 4A Mechanical
Posted on: July 2, 2017

Toronto Annual Pride Parade

This year marks the 37th annual Pride festival in Toronto and the second-ever Pride Month.This Pride Month consisted of engaging programming and exciting events throughout the city, culminating in the famous and much-anticipated Pride Parade on June 25th. The Pride Parade also included the Trans* Pride March on June 23rd and the #RESIST Dyke March on June 24th.

 The Pride Parade marched through the city’s Gay Village and shut down the street to become a pedestrian-only party zone. The parade started at the intersection of Bloor Street East, partied down Yonge Street, all the way down to the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street. This procession of rainbows and inclusivity weaved through the downtown core, spreading colourful cheer to all the L, all the G, all the B, all the T, all the Q, and to all those around. Prominent Canadian politicians also made an appearance to show their support for the event and the community. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire, First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were among the dignitaries marching through the streets. “It’s all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong,” Trudeau told reporters before the parade started.

 The Pride Parade in Toronto is an annual event that happens every June. The event is organized by Pride Toronto and celebrates the diversity and inclusivity of the LGBTQA+ community in the Greater Toronto Area. LGBTQA+ is an initialism that encompass those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual, and the + alludes to all other sexual orientations, such as pansexual. The Pride Parade in Toronto is one of the largest cultural festivals in North America, made up of 22 city blocks, drawing in an estimated 500 000 to one million attendees for Pride Week and 100 000 people to the parade itself. Pride Toronto evolved out of the mass protests that followed the 1981 Toronto bathhouse raids, a raid by the Metropolitan Toronto Police against four gay bathhouses in Toronto, and was the second largest mass arrest in Canadian history. The day after the raid, 3000 protesters shut down Yonge and Wellesley with a march and a large, ill-tempered rally. A demonstrator that night said that the situation, “was not a gay issue, but a human rights issue.” The City of Toronto proclaimed the first official Pride week in 1991, and in 1995 Toronto Mayor Barbara Hall established the tradition of the head of council marching in the parade. This streak was broken in 2011 by Mayor Rob Ford. With this year’s theme of “+” (plus), the Pride Parade marches stronger than ever, overcoming financial difficulties and controversy.

 There  was controversy leading up to the 2017 Pride Parade which stemmed from the exclusion of Toronto Police Officers. On that day, the police officers stood guard as security, only watching over the procession. In January, the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) presented a list of demands to the organizers of Pride to ban police from marching in the parade. BLM argued that by allowing uniformed officer to march in the parade, it could discourage marginalized communities from attending. This was the first time since 2000 that the Toronto Police have not marched in the Pride Parade. In response to the ban on police floats and uniformed officers, a group of Toronto police attended the pride parade in New York City. BLM did not register or officially participate in the parade but showed up towards the end chanting “Black Lives Matter” and holding signs that read, “May we never again have to remind you that WE built this,” and, “May we never again have to remind you that we shut it down for all of us”.

 Over 150 groups attended the parade this year, and among the revelers, the University of Waterloo Engineering Society marched in solidarity, enjoying the fun-filled day of rainbows, bubbles, and tie dye. Most notably, for the first time in the University of Waterloo history, the President of the University, Feridun Hamdullahpur, celebrated in the Pride Parade alongside all the students, staff, and faculty. The Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity from the University of Waterloo celebrated in the streets of Toronto as well. The purpose of attending was to raise awareness of the centre and to celebrate such an exciting annual event for the LGBTQ community. The Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity is the oldest running LGBTQA+ student organization in Canada. GLOW has marched in every Pride Parade since its inception in 1981. The University of Waterloo is a diverse place and is made up many different types of students. To have the freedom to celebrate and include everyone is something to be proud of, good job uWaterloo! We hope to see you at next year’s Pride Parade.

150 Years – Canada Day

The University of Waterloo’s Canada Day event took place last week near Columbia Lake. The massive festival, which had pre-day attendance estimates of between 50 000 and 70 000, was a huge success. Dozens of vendors, scores of university staff and other personnel, and over 100 student volunteers all worked diligently to make everything come together as it should.

The event got off to a rocket start, when an inopportune 1 PM thunderstorm sent the entire setup crew running for the safety of Columbia Ice Fields (CIF), the nearest permanent structure. Fortunately, the weather cleared by 3:30, so the attractions managed to open by 4 PM as planned, albeit with more disorder than might be hoped. The early attractions catered largely to smaller children: the main stage featured an hour and a half of famous Canadian children entertainers “Bobs & Lolo.” Food trucks served all manner of foods, from ice cream to authentic Indian dishes, while entertainers on stilts, face-painters, and balloon-blowers entertained the crowd. The Engineering Society set up shop on the top of a hill to provide attractions like bouncy castles, a foam airplane craft, and a crowd-favourite 100-foot water slide.

Other attractions of the day included exhibits put on by other student clubs and groups, like the the Student Art Innovation Lab (SAIL), which offered screenprinted party hats; UWAFT; and the AHS faculty. Still more attractions were offered by community partners like THEMUSEUM, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. At 6 PM, two vintage fighter jets operated by the Waterloo Warbirds, a single-engine Canadian T-33 and a Czech Aero L-29 Deflin, did a few celebratory passes.

The most significant change to this ceremony from previous years was the creation of a second stage, located at the far end of the field to the main stage. This stage, named the Canada 150 Cultural Stage, featured a number of different cultural performances by groups such as the Portuguese Club of Kitchener and the South Indian Tamil Nadaswarm Music Group. The university itself was represented too, with performances by UW Hip Hop and UW Balinese Gamelan Ensemble.

The headline event at Canada Day this year was Dwayne Gretzky, a Torontonian band famous for their covers of other popular bands. They’re a smart choice, since the music they perform covers a range of eras that satisfied most of the crowd. The final performance of the night was a final round of “O Canada performed by university a cappella group The Waterboys, which initiated the last event: the fireworks.

For me, this Canada Day was a series of mini-miracles. The 1 PM rain was unfortunate, but the clouds that came after provided much-needed shade for part of the afternoon. More miraculously, the rain threw everyone’s schedule into disarray, but actually solved a scheduling issue I had run into quite nicely. Similarly, EngSoc’s bouncy castles got blown up later than expected, after people started showing up. However, this concurred with the arrival of a few extra volunteers: if the technicians hadn’t shown up late, we would have been short-staffed. This isn’t a story about me, so I’ll leave my tale there, but it was a wonderful and opportune day for everything to just happen to work out.

Canada may have turned 150 this year, but there is still so much rich history in its past. Be it the migration of the First Nations some 10 000 years ago, the temporary settlements of Vikings in Newfoundland and Labrador before Columbus ever set sail, the English takeover of Quebec, or the Rebellions of 1837 – 1838, Canada’ s long and exciting history is betrayed by its young age. Even just in the 150 years since Confederation, there are many wonderful (and horrible) stories to tell.