Edmonton's Pride week kicks off with rainbow bus, flag raisings

There will be no Pride Festival this year, but politicians are marking the celebrations for LGBTQ communities by raising two rainbow flags.

Mayor says the bus 'sends a strong message about the city's position on inclusion'

Local drag queens stand in front of the Pride bus as it's unveiled to the public. (Richard Marion/CBC)

Edmonton marked the start of Pride Week on Friday with music, drag queens, rainbow flags and a "Pride bus." 

Mayor Don Iveson unveiled an Edmonton Transit Service bus, plastered with a rainbow ribbon heart on Friday afternoon, just before he raised a rainbow flag in front of city hall. 

"Look at the smiling faces here, the bus already has an impact," said Iveson. "I think seeing it on the streets sends a strong message about the city's position on inclusion."

Earlier in the day, another rainbow flag was raised at the Alberta Legislature. The ceremony opened with remarks from Leela Sharon Aheer, Alberta's minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women. 

Leela Sharon Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women, raised a flag Friday outside the Alberta legislature. (Richard Marion/CBC)

"It's more than a symbol — it represents a commitment from government to create an Alberta where everyone can succeed, regardless of how they identify or who they love,"  Aheer said before she raised the flag.

Signs of protest 

Nearby, a handful of protesters held up signs as Aheer raised the flag. One sign read, "You cannot attack our rights and raise a rainbow flag."

Protesters said they're unhappy with the government's recent changes in the Education Act regarding gay-straight alliances and the lack of progress in banning conversion therapy

A sign held up by a protester as outside the legislature.

"We have the strongest protections for our incredible LGBTQ2S+ youth, for gender diverse communities," Aheer said in response. 

"The whole point of the GSA is to make sure they have safe and caring spaces, and we're going to make sure they have that."

At a news conference, reporters asked Premier Jason Kenney whether he and his caucus members will be attend Pride events next week in Edmonton.

"I think our representatives will be," said Kenney, who referred to Aheer's attendance at the flag raising ceremony. "I believe there will be other activities in that respect."

Pride Week runs until next Sunday. 

A rainbow flag was raised at Alberta's legislature building to kick off this year's Pride Week. (Richard Marion/CBC)