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Raising the Pride Flag at the Chatham Civic Center is more than just a gesture to the Chatham-Kent Gay Pride Association, it’s a show of support.

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The Pride Flag has flown at City Hall for over two decades and for the past five years the flag has flown at civic centers in Wallaceburg, Tilbury, Blenheim, Ridgetown and Dresden.

“Thank you very much to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent for your continued support, your continued visible advocacy by raising the flags in all of your municipal centers to show everyone that we are an inclusive community, growing to become a more diverse and more tolerant,” CK Pride President Marianne Willson said Monday to kick off Pride Week in the municipality.

Willson acknowledges “there is still work to be done” in small, rural communities, adding, “But I think it’s important that we are all part of this work. »

She said it takes time, growth, learning and public events like raising the flag “to show people that everything is fine and that we are all the same humans. . . we happen to have differences.

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“But differences make our community vibrant, they make it rich, and they bring our community together,” she added.

Willson also thanked the great community partners who not only support Pride events, but also “help support diversity, equity and inclusion in their workplaces and with their staff members.”

She said CK Pride has worked hard over the past decade “to really push the boundaries of community diversity and inclusion. . . and really to create community partners so that we can all come together as one community.

Com. Jamie McGrail, who represented Chatham-Kent as acting mayor at Monday’s flag raising, said the more than 75 people who took part exemplified “the pride of Pride week and the inclusion of all within our municipality”.

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Although there are still challenges, McGrail said: “I see that in North Kent we are making great progress,” citing the council’s recent unanimous approval for a Pride pedestrian crossing in Dresden.

“I think it’s just awesome and a great symbol of righteous communities coming together,” she said.

A number of senior Chatham-Kent Police officers attended the flag raising donning a Pride Flag symbol on their uniforms.

The police department’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator, Sgt. Lynette Hodder said, “We are always looking for different ways to engage with the community. »

She added that the police department is excited about Pride Week.

Asked about the importance of the partnership between the police and Pride groups, Hodder said: ‘A lot of people know the story and it hasn’t been the most positive story, and we are working to fix it. . . those mistakes that have been made in the past.

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“We wholeheartedly and honestly want to be more inclusive and we want to reflect our community and that includes the LGBTQ (community),” she added.

Pride Week is packed with events, culminating with a Pride Parade on Saturday followed by a festival in Chatham’s Tecumseh Park.

Willson said the return to in-person events is huge because “isolation is such a challenge for people who already feel isolated.

“Then being forced into physical isolation during the pandemic has been really, really difficult,” she added.

Willson said Pride week events are good for people’s well-being to be able to come together and build peer connections and support and feel at home.

“I expect us to have a great week.”

Throughout the week, Willson said people were encouraged to share their photos and videos in support of CK Pride via social media. Details are available at www.facebook.com/PrideCK.

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