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Surrey holds first-ever pride parade

'Some people say it's wrong to be gay, but it's not,' say children attending Surrey's first pride parade. Hundreds of others joined them including youth who say they hope to provide the change needed to fully accept the LGBTQ community in the city.

'Our time has come ... I think people have been waiting," says Surrey Pride Society president

Up to 1000 people attended Surrey's first pride parade on Sunday 26 June, 2016, many dressed to celebrate. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

The LGBTQ community in Surrey has claimed a first by holding a pride parade on Sunday.

"Our time has come," said Shawn Ewing, president of the Surrey Pride Society. "I think people have been waiting and we've been a little bit frightened to do that next step ... it was time to do this."

Surrey's first ever pride parade did not feature all the pizzazz of Vancouver's but still drew hundreds who celebrated their sexuality in a walk from City Hall Plaza down University Boulevard to Holland Park. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Many at the parade told CBC they view Surrey as a municipality with more conservative values than Vancouver and that was one reason it's taken until now to hold the event.

"I don't like it, I think they should have stayed in Vancouver," said an 80-year-old woman who would only identify herself to the CBC as Joanna. "Now they're in your face, I don't like that too much."

Participants carried a huge pride flag at Surrey's first ever pride parade on June 26, 2016. (Doug Kerr/CBC)
Sister Diversity Rain, left, and Sister Koo-Koo Kachoo of Vancouver Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence call Surrey's pride parade, "a great start for Surrey." (Doug Kerr/CBC)
Saraya and Cecilia Deol attended Surrey's pride parade with their parents. "We are celebrating gay people," they said. "Some people accuse gay people that it's wrong to be gay ... it's not." (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Surrey's first pride parade began at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday at City Hall Plaza and marched down to University Boulevard to the Surrey Pride Festival at Holland Park.

Taylor Sherstone, 16, walked in the parade with her friend Emma Ng who is 17.

"I hope our generation is the one that gets this nailed down and finds acceptance that everyone deserves," said Sherstone.

"We're going to be the generation to make the difference," added Ng. "I hope we can push traditional values that have blocked LGBTQ values in the past."

Emma Ng, 17, and Taylor Sherstone, 16, hope their generation will be the one to remove any barriers for LGBTQ people living in Surrey. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

Earlier in June, Surrey City Council unanimously approved a motion to fly a rainbow-coloured flag at Surrey City Hall until the pride festival on Sunday

It was meant to show solidarity, sympathy and support for the members of the LGBTQ community following the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Surrey was also the host of the Lower Mainland's first LGBTQ prom.

Alex Sangha with Sher Vancouver says as Surrey's pride parade develops more people will join, including gay South Asians, who he says often struggle to be open about their sexuality. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

But Alex Sangha, who is the founder of Sher Vancouver, a queer support group for South Asians, said Surrey's event still needs time to grow and attract participants that reflect the city's demographics.

"I think it's hard for people of colour, especially South Asians," he said while marching in the parade. "It's a little bit close to home. There are some queer South Asians [at the parade] ... but it's hard for people to come out of the closet."

with files from Deborah Goble