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Membertou councillor Graham Marshall summed up his invitation to Membertou’s mawiomi by appealing to both our wallets and our stomachs.

“What other event can you find that has free admission, free parking, and free food? he asks. But, more importantly, Marshall says the mawiomi is an opportunity “to get to know one another.” He then delivered what The Third thought to be an important message. “In non-indigenous communities, they do land acknowledgements. We love them and we are grateful for the acknowledgements, and we thank them. But, also, why not come into our communities and start relationships with us? That’s what we are looking for. Let’s get to know one another so when you come into our communities and see our initiatives we can educate one another, to get to know one another. That’s really important – to start relationships with us.”

The 2SLGBTQ+ community is also hoping to continue to build its relationship with Thirders this week. The Cape Breton Pride Festival also kicks off this week with a youth dance this Thursday and wraps up next week with a candlelight vigil. But most in the 2SLGBTQ+ community are most looking forward to the Pride Parade. Veronica Merryfield is the founder of the Cape Breton Transgender Network, Director of Education for the Cape Breton Pride Board, and a longtime activist and advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The parade is what she is most looking forward to, in part, because of the increasing support shown to the community. She says it was about five or six years ago that Thirders started coming out to the parade to demonstrate their support for the community. She is particularly proud of the local businesses who take part in the parade. “It sends an important message to the community that we are welcome in their stores to shop or work.” She is hoping that the trend continues this year.

But, like Marshall, Merryfield has some important messages to share about the importance of showing up to the Pride Parade. She reminded The Third that the fight for rights has been a long and sometimes dangerous battle. “Some have lost their lives; they need to be remembered.” So, many she says, “march to honour the work that’s been put into gaining those important rights.” Equally important, she says is maintaining the community’s visibility. “Representation is important. We are here. There are still people who feel that they can’t be visible, and they need to know that there are those of us out there who are, who understand that.” Merryfield says the visibility and representation are important for the next generation of the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The Pride Parade, although a celebration, is also an important safe space to many in the community, she explains to The Third. “The parade is visible. It is a place that the next generation can come. They can find us.” That is important, she says, at a time when rights are being removed from the 2SLGBTQ+ communities in some jurisdictions as the activities of the far right in Canada are on the rise.

Veronica Merryfield is the founder of the Cape Breton Transgender Network and Director of Education for the Cape Breton Pride Board

Merryfield says she understands that many young people might be concerned about what they see in their social media feeds. Her advice: “Reach out to the community. There are lots of us out here who are ready, willing, and able to help. A lot of us are activists and advocates trying and pushing for change. If willing, come march in the parade. And, if they have no one to march with, come find me.” We asked Veronica Merryfield How can businesses express their support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community and offer a more welcoming environment.

Here’s are her top tips.

1. “Come talk to me, because that’s what I do.”

2. Promote your open and safe workplace

3. Provide non-gendered bathrooms at your workplace

4. Fly the Pride flag

5. Use and encourage your employees to identify their chosen pronouns

6. Articulate your support for the 2SLGBTQ+ community publicly

7. Take action to address homophobic employees.

8. Don’t wait until you have staff from the community to act on equity policies, send a proactive message that you are an open and safe employer offering a safe space

9. Recognize that it takes work, that you need to keep working at it, it will never be perfect.

Back in Membertou, Marshall wants to send a similar welcoming message to Thirders. “Our mawiomi is for every single human being. All are welcome in our community,” says Marshall. “The Mi’kmaw are known for their hospitality. As Mi’kmaw people, we were one of the first people to encounter settlers, to have relationships with settlers. To host settlers.”


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