Nova Scotia

What could be Nova Scotia's longest Pride flag on display in Antigonish

Community members in Antigonish have gotten together to paint the nearly 50-metre-long fence to look like a Pride flag.

Volunteers are painting a 50-metre-long fence to create the Pride flag

A person is seen sitting on a sidewalk painting a fence in rainbow colours.
Community members got together to paint the fence on Monday. It's expected to be finished by the end of the week. (Submitted by Andrew Murray)

A group of community members in Antigonish have gotten together to paint what could be Nova Scotia's longest Pride flag.

Andrew Murray, a town councillor, said the idea came from Allan Ferguson, a teacher and adviser for the gay-straight alliance at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School.

Murray, Ferguson and Mayor Laurie Boucher were walking back to the school following a Pride ceremony in Chisholm Park last month when they passed the long guardrail fence on St. Ninian's Street. 

"Allan said, 'Wouldn't that make a great Pride flag, [a great] area for a flag to be painted?'" Murray told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

The fence is nearly 50 metres long and is made up of the guardrail and slabs of wood, "so it would naturally lend itself for horizontal painting," Murray said.

Not only is it a Pride fence, it can be interpreted as a wall that we're changing to something more positive.- Andrew Murray

Boucher agreed so Murray made a presentation to council, which voted unanimously in favour of the idea. The town donated the paint for the flag.

The painting of the fence started Monday and is expected to be finished this week, just in time for the 2022 Highland Games.

Although not confirmed, Murray believes the fence could be the longest in the province by the time it's finished. 

He said the Pride flag feels especially significant this year because the LGBTQ community has recently celebrated several anniversaries, including the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York in 2019, which marked a pivotal turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement.

He said this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Toronto Pride Parade and what would have been the 50th anniversary of the Pride parade in Oslo, Norway.

The annual parade was cancelled after a gunman opened fire inside an LGBTQ bar in Oslo last month, killing two people and leaving more than 20 wounded.

"It seems like all the work that has been done over the 50 years is in jeopardy if people aren't safe going to safe places for fear of being shot," Murray said.

He said it feels like the community is being threatened, especially as there have been recent talks to overturn certain gay rights in the United States.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, a decision that now allows states to restrict or outright ban abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas called on the court to overturn other high court rulings protecting same-sex marriage and gay sex.

Fence represents barriers to LGBTQ people

Murray said the fence represents oppression, which like a fence, is a barrier to the LGBTQ community.

"As a community, we are visible and we have overcome these barriers as we are stronger together, so not only is it a Pride fence, it can be interpreted as a wall that we're changing to something more positive," he said.

Murray, who was one of the first openly gay municipal councillors in Nova Scotia, said he's never had any issues during his seven years on council. 

Andrew Murray, a town councillor in Antigonish, is spearheading the creation of what just might be the longest pride flag in the province. His group is painting a 160-feet guardrail fence, near Cairn Park, in rainbow colours.

He said Pride events are well received in Antigonish and he expects the same of the flag. He said he hopes it also inspires more LGBTQ people to get into municipal politics.

"It's very encouraging and welcoming. It's just in the bigger picture of the world that I'm worried about, and so we can do our part by making our presence known," he said.

"We come from all walks of society, of course, and I'm just hoping that maybe by leading by example, there will be more LGBTQ members getting into this form of politics. That would be my hope."

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia