New winter Pride festival a celebration, reminder of fight for equality

This year's Winterlude festival comes with a first for Ottawa's LGBTQ community — the inaugural Pride celebration held in sub-zero temperatures.

March today to end conversion therapy, blood donation bans

Christian Garceau, Capital Pride's festival director, says WinterPride is a chance for the community to celebrate together. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

This year's Winterlude festival marks a big moment for Ottawa's LGBTQ community — the city's first Pride celebration held in sub-zero temperatures.

Canadian Heritage teamed up with Capital Pride to organize a more inclusive festival this year, reflecting communities that typically haven't seen themselves represented in festival events before.

The first weekend of Winterlude included a celebration of Indigenous cultures, culminating with a powwow at the Canadian Museum of History

The second week, meanwhile, has seen the launch of WinterPride, which kicked off Wednesday and has featured events like an ice cabaret, drag performances and an awards ceremony recognizing LGBTQ leaders. 

The winter version of the festival comes after Ottawa's most successful summer Pride festival, said Christian Garceau, Capital Pride's festival director — one that saw more than 125,000 people take part.

It's to give opportunities for our community to go out and attend events where they feel comfortable with themselves, where they feel it's for them.- Christian Garceau

When it comes down to it, the festival is all about uniting a community, Garceau said.

"It's to give opportunities for our community to go out and attend events where they feel comfortable with themselves, where they feel it's for them," Garceau said. "Where marginalized people can really come together and celebrate without some of the hardships that they face in more mainstream situations." 

Saturday's events along Sparks Street encouraged families to get involved, with a ball toss, Beavertails and maple taffy, and the creation of a colourful "ice mosaic."

Marking 50 years

Today, on the last day of WinterPride, marchers are expected to gather on Parliament Hill to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalization of homosexuality, which occurred with the Criminal Law Amendment Act passed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau's government in 1969. 

Jamie Haight is the co-chair of Snow Pride, a group that was invited to participate in WinterPride. 

"Pierre Trudeau made that famous statement, 'We don't belong in people's bedrooms,'" Haight said. "It opened up Canada to more freedoms — and that's what Canada's about."

Blocks of coloured ice are stuck onto a heart-shaped ice sculpture as part of Ottawa's first-ever WinterPride event, a part of this year's Winterlude festival. (Leah Hansen/CBC)

Despite the celebratory atmosphere, when it comes to achieving true equality, Garceau said there's still much to be done. 

Sunday's march will advocate for the end of discriminatory practices that persist to this day, including the use of conversion therapy — the controversial practice of counselling LGBTQ youth to become straight — and a blood donation ban that affects transgender people and men who have sex with men. 

Men must still wait one year after having sexual contact with another man before being eligible to donate blood, a policy that has been widely criticized as discriminatory and lacking scientific merit.  

"It wasn't like 1969 happened and all of a sudden, all the bias and all the bigotry and all the issues went away," Garceau said. "There is still so much work to be done."

The Capital Pride March will start at noon on Parliament Hill and end at Bank and Sparks streets at 1:30 p.m.