New Brunswick

N.B. vigils organized for victims of Orlando massacre

New Brunswick's LGBTQ communities are organizing local vigils this week to show their compassion for the tragedy in Orlando.

Events in Moncton, Fredericton, Saint John

A mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. has shocked and saddened the LGBTQ community of New Brunswick. (Devin Heroux/CBC News )

New Brunswick's LGBTQ communities are organizing local vigils this week to show their compassion for the tragedy in Orlando.

"It's horrible," said Danderson, one of the organizers behind Moncton's riverfront vigil Monday night. "It's horrible to feel that kind of hate coming from somebody just for living your life every day. This tell me that people still want queer people exterminated."

The New Brunswick legislature raised the Pride banner Monday and the New Brunswick government tweeted that it had lowered the provincial flag to half-mast to acknowledge the shootings that claimed 49 victims.

But the province, historically, has lagged behind other Canadian jurisdictions when it comes to supporting gay rights.

Danderson, an LGBT events promoter in Moncton, called it 'horrible' to feel that level of hate from someone, after the Orlando shootings. (CBC)
It was the last to fund gender reassignment surgery, and was one of the last to recognize same-sex marriage.

As recently as two years ago, the Gay Straight Alliance at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton was not allowed to fly the Pride flag, as instructed in an email by then-premier David Alward.

Some of the most memorable events in recent history include former Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside refusing to proclaim Pride week until ordered to do so in 1998 by the Human Rights Commission.

There was also an indelible rant by former Saint John MP Elsie Wayne in 2003.

"Why do they have to be out in the public? Always debating that they want to call it marriage," she said in the House of Commons. "Why are they in parades? Why are they dressed up as women on floats?"

Resistance still felt

Pride advocate Mack Mackenzie says you don't even have to go back that far in time to feel the resistance.

Mack Mackenzie, of Saint John's PFLAG chapter, says there has been lots of recent resistance to the LGBTQ in New Brunswick. (CBC)
"We had Rodney Weston, who was the member of parliament for Saint John and (Fundy Royal Conservative MP) Rob Moore who were both — Rob Moore was quite vocal against same-sex marriage. And Rodney Weston in 10 years, never showed up to our events," he said.

MacKenzie described the Orlando massacre's impact on a local mother as devastating.

He said she asked him what it would mean to her 14-year-old child who had just come out.

"She was crying over this news," he said. MacKenzie is the leader of the Saint John PFLAG chapter, which normally meets once a month but will be taking a summer break in July and August.

Time to talk

He said he'll always take calls from anyone who's troubled, and said the gay straight alliance groups in New Brunswick schools should take the time to talk about what happened.

"I think there's an opportunity for teachers to talk to kids about this, right now, before school ends," he said.

Meanwhile, Danderson said the vigils will provide the opportunity for people who say they support equal rights to stand up and show that support.

He said the sense of security in the LGBTQ community is fragile and the massacre in Florida that targeted a gay nightclub has reduced it even more.

"Some people only have those spaces and that's all," he said. "Because they've been kicked out of their families or fired from their jobs because of who they are."

Danderson said New Brunswick has only two gay clubs because the province remains "very closeted."

"And that tells me that people don't know how to create the space for themselves or they are afraid to," he said.

Orlando Vigil Schedule: 

  • Monday June 13, Moncton 8 p.m. 150 Assomption Blvd. (Rain Venue - Press Club, 160 Assomption Blvd)
  • Monday June 13, Fredericton 9 p.m. parking lot of Clinic 554
  • Tuesday June 14, Saint John 9:15 p.m., Fort LaTour
  • Thursday, June 16, Fredericton 6 p.m., Fredericton City Hall.

About the Author

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.