I remember my first time being in the Toronto Pride Parade. It was in June 2011.
I was then Co-President of the Ontario Government Employees Pride Network. On a hot, hot, hot day, I was walking alongside dozens of smiling, jumping and mesmerized colleagues. Toronto was saying ‘we love you – you’re all fine – gay, bi, trans, or not’. It was exhilarating, freeing. It remains one of the most beautiful moments of my life.
Earlier this year my consulting business brought me to work with FrancoQueer, a grassroots Toronto organization that accompanies Francophone refugees to acquire full granted status as they land in Toronto.
Each refugee story is touching. Everyone has unbelievable courage. Each one of them has mastered resilience. As I was touched, moved and inspired, I wanted to get involved and to make a difference. I wanted to help refugees integrate our diverse and inclusive society. I wanted to give them the gift of acceptance, of freedom and of a true home. To have them participate in the biggest LGBTQIA street party in North America! That, on July 3rd, they could celebrate who they are!
And so my project began: to empower 25, 50 or more LGBT refugees in Toronto to learn to roller blade, and then to take the streets and blade in the July 3rd Pride Parade. Our wonderful partners – and the list is ongoing – MCCT, The 519 and FrancoQueer are reaching out to refugees via their newsletters, weekly meetings, services, and word of mouth.
“I don’t know how to blade” will not be an onbstacle. We will set up fun roller blading teaching sessions during the month of June. We are still looking for roller blades and protective equipment. Please make a donation if you extra gear!
Let us know how you can assist: you are friends with Nike’s CEO, Sporting Life, The Bay or Loblaws, you want to donate your rollerblades and you are a wicked rollerblader and want to join our awesome instructors team.
On July 3rd, stand up for our valiant roller bladers as they make the turn onto Yonge Street into this feast of smiles, enthusiasm and love. You’ve come a long way. Welcome home.
Louise Gauvreau, Senior Project Manager