3 people who are creating open and inviting spaces for the LGBTQ community across Canada

June marks Pride Month in many places across the country, a time to celebrate the diversity, histories and contributions of LGTBQ communities. Meet three individuals working hard to create spaces that feel open and inviting to other LGBTQ people.

Documentaries highlight how small actions are making a big impact

From Manitoba’s only LGBTQ curling club to Pride celebrations in Nova Scotia’s smallest town to a queer Indigenous church minister: Trevor Harris, Zeynep Tonak and Susan Beaver (left to right) are carving out space for the LGTBQ folks in their communities. (CBC Docs)

June marks Pride Month in many places across the country, a time to celebrate the diversity, histories and contributions of LGTBQ communities. Meet three individuals working hard to create spaces that feel open and inviting to other LGBTQ people.

Zeynep Tonak: Organizing Pride events to shift her community's outlook 

Zeynep Tonak is from the smallest town in Nova Scotia. 

Annapolis Royal, with its population of fewer than 500 people, is a picturesque waterfront community with a vibrant arts scene. It's a beautiful place, she says, but growing up there presented certain challenges. 

Zeynep Tonak is a Pride organizer in her small town of less than 500 people. (CBC Docs/Small Town Pride)

In the documentary Small Town Pride, Tonak says that being LGBTQ is "just not talked about."

"This town has taken on the mentality of, like, 'Don't ask, don't tell.'" 

In high school, Tonak was outed by a peer, and has observed an attitude of tolerance rather than acceptance in her community. Now, she is one of the organizers of Annapolis Royal's Pride celebrations. The film follows her, and several other small-town organizers across the country, in the days leading up to Pride. 

Tonak sees a lot of potential in her local celebrations, giving residents a chance to integrate into the larger LGBTQ community — perhaps for the first time — or publicly demonstrate their allyship.

"[A way] of being like, 'I'm here, I need to be welcomed, I need to feel accepted.' But also a way for people to be like, 'We do accept you, and we're here and we're visible.'"

Susan Beaver: Healing relationships between the LGBTQ community and the church

Susan Beaver is a Kanien'kehá:ka (also known as Mohawk) minister at the Grand River United Church in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont. She is also openly queer.

"The church has done a lot of damage in the world," Beaver says in the documentary Devout + Out: Susan, part of a series about openly LGBTQ church leaders. "So the church needs to be a part of that healing in the world."

Susan Beaver is a Kanien'kehá:ka, openly queer minister at the Grand River United Church in Six Nations of the Grand River, Ont. (CBC Docs/Devout + Out)

Beaver knows that the church has moved slowly in its reconciliation efforts. "One of the first church conferences I went to, people were grappling politically with things around race, class and gender that the rest of the world had been grappling with for 30 years," she says.

Still, she holds a firm belief in the goodness at the core of the church and wants to be part of the healing process, all while respecting the Longhouse faith in her community.

Beaver and her partner are very visible and active in their church, where LGTBQ people are welcomed. One new member of the congregation who is gay travels a great distance to participate, says Beaver. 

Beaver hopes that the teachings of compassion, love, kindness and respect will inspire people to love who they are. "I guess that's part of what I'm gonna do," she says. "Bring us all together with God so we understand the incredible beauty that each of us can bring to the world."

Trevor Harris: Building a safe and inclusive curling community

In 2005, Trevor Harris had recently come out and moved to Winnipeg. In an effort to combine an active pastime with his desire for connection, he founded the Keystone Rainbow Curling League. 

Trevor Harris created the Keystone Rainbow Curling League after moving to Winnipeg in 2005. The league operates out of the Granite Curling Club and has nearly 150 active members and affiliates. (CBC Docs/Rainbow Ice)

Today, the league bills itself as "Manitoba's only curling league dedicated to the two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender [and] queer community," and is a safe, inviting space for the community and its allies to stay active, socialize and have fun. 

Harris says the initial challenge was finding the right curling club to host the league. "Being the early 2000s, it wasn't like we were being pushed away if we approached the club, but we wanted to find a space that really was looking forward to having us there," he says in the documentary Rainbow Ice

The longstanding Granite Curling Club, established in 1880, became home to the league.

In Keystone's first year, they expected to have up to eight teams sign up. By the time registration closed, there were 18 teams. Today, the club has nearly 150 active members and affiliates, and is open to new players of all skill levels.

"To see our league growing, I think it [is] a great thing," says Harris. "And it fills me with pride."


Samantha Moya is an associate producer at CBC based in Toronto. She has worked in the local newsroom and with the CBC Docs digital team. She’s a graduate of the Toronto Metropolitan University and Sheridan College where she specialized in journalism and video production.

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