Thousands of people took to the streets in brightly coloured clothes in a show of celebration of the inaugural Pride parade in Steinbach, Man., Saturday morning.
People started gathering in the community 50 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg around 10:30 a.m. CT before the parade began its march at 11 a.m.
Police estimated between 2,500 and 5,000 people came to the community of about 13,500 for the parade.
Steinbach Pride spokeswoman Michelle McHale said they initially expected about 200 participants, but after word of the event spread, people from across Manitoba and as far away as Florida said they'd be coming.
"It's unbelievable. It's amazing. It's so beautiful and we are in Steinbach," she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also Tweeted his support to the parade participants.
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Tharuna Abbu is from Winkler, Man. which she calls a "sister town to Steinbach."
"Many of the struggles that I see happening in the school division here in Steinbach and just the culture is very similar and really reminds me of what I went through in my own life," she said.
"I think it's just important for people to support each other and just to prove that we exist and demand respect from the community that we too call home."
Adrienne Young said she was fortunate to grow up in a supportive community and wants to pass that along to LGBT people in Steinbach.
"I want to show that I do care and I am part of a community that is there to support," she said.
Jason Skinner and his husband Nicholas Gray said it was really amazing to be part of the historical parade.
"This is great for the LGBTTQ community here because they haven't had a voice yet. So now giving them a voice really amplifies the strength the community here has," Skinner said.
The march was followed by speeches, education sessions and an evening celebration in nearby La Broquerie.
Darnel Forro from Winnipeg said as a gay man of colour it was important to have a sense of representation.
"It's good to be visible," he said.
Leading up to the parade, organizers have faced many struggles. The permit to march on the street was initially denied by the RCMP, who cited "safety reasons" due to road construction. Organizers were told instead they would have to stick to the sidewalk. After some route reworking by organizers, the RCMP reassessed its decision and the permit was granted.
In Steinbach, a number of residents have cited their Christian beliefs as a reason for refusing to back the event, although some Christians have expressed support.
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Conservative MP Ted Falk has refused to attend. Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen and member of the legislature Kelvin Goertzen are not expected to attend the Pride event because of prior commitments.
As well, the mayor and city council released a written statement that they would not endorse the march.
"I've been clear on this issue many times, and have made my position public on my values of faith, family, and community," Falk said in a statement issued June 20.
Lillian Bouderlique moved to the communtiy nearly five decades ago. She said it was important to come show her support because it was "history in the making for Steinbach."
"I think the more people that come out and say we have rights, everybody has rights — black, white gay straight, everybody — it's just one of those things," she said. "It's Canadian."