Regina Pride hopeful parade marshal controversy can inform future events

A Pride in Sport group is set to co-marshal Regina's pride parade after Jon Ryan's departure.

Pride in Sport group to co-marshal parade after Jon Ryan's departure

Jon Ryan's participation stirred up controversy, but that's helped the gender and sexually diverse community listen to one another, said Regina Pride co-chair Dan Shier. (Tyler Pidlubny/CBC)

Gender and sexually diverse members of Regina's sports community are set to co-marshal the Queen City Pride Parade on Saturday after NFLer Jon Ryan stepped away from the position.

Ryan, who is from Regina, was originally designated as co-grand marshal alongside Aids Program South Saskatchewan. Ryan relinquished that role Friday.

The offer to Ryan was first extended "as part of the ongoing dialogue of needing to make sports more of a welcoming space," said Dan Shier, who is co-chair of Queen City Pride on Monday.

"Ultimately our goal was to better represent sports and better represent our athletes and our community when it comes to pride in sport."

Ryan's selection drew both support and criticism

On Wednesday, Regina Pride board members met with community members at a town hall to hear concerns and potential solutions regarding Ryan's role. Following the town hall, Regina Pride put out a call for athletes to march in a Pride in Sports group alongside Ryan.

Then on Friday, Ryan notified Regina Pride of his decision to step aside. 

"I was very honoured to be asked but it seems the best thing I can do is let someone else fill the role," Ryan said in a statement released Friday.

On social media, his wife Sarah Colonna commented: "I spoke to a dear trans friend when we first heard of the backlash and she said 'at times an ally can unintentionally take up space, but you can never go wrong by ceding space.' 

"It resonated and it helped us see all sides of it..."

The dialogue surrounding Ryan's appointment was emotional and part of that is because gender and sexually diverse people have experienced a multitude of hardships, Shier said.

"Ensuring that our voices — no matter who we are — are heard and acknowledged and respected is very important to a very passionate community," he said.
Ryan's role as parade co-marshal was first announced on May 24. (The Associated Press)

"I think that's why everyone is so invested in ensuring that pride is a moment to bring those concerns and issues to the forefront." 

The experience has been both challenging and educational, Shier said, adding the conversations that have arisen in the wake of Ryan's appointment are able to "inform" future events.

Shier said inclusion is a "large and complex" thing. He noted it's important everyone can feel welcome in the community.

"Inclusion also means listening to the diverse city of voices and ensuring that everyone's voices are heard and doing what's possible to make accommodations." 

Shier said the parade will still try to highlight Pride in Sport, which was why Ryan was appointed in the first place. Members from local sports groups, including  from the Pile O' Bones Roller Derby and Regina Riot, will co-marshal the parade with APSS.

Furthermore, Shier said he's hopeful the appointment of grand marshal in the future will include a more involved conversation with the community.