This past May, the town council in Emo, Ontario – located near Canada’s border with Minnesota – voted down a resolution recognizing June as Pride Month in a 3-2 vote.
Mayor Harold McQuaker and two of the town councilors voted against the resolution. The mayor explained that, in his opinion, it would be unfair to pass the resolution because – wait for it – there’s no “Straight Pride.”
During the town council meeting discussing the resolution, McQuaker said: “We have one flagpole and there’s no flags being flown for the straight people.”
The Northern Ontario Pride Network filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, saying that “homophobia was the only reason behind the decision to deny” the resolution.
According to the complaint, the Pride resolution was approved in Emo in 2018. But in 2019, the town council removed “the resolution’s LGBTQ-supportive language and all references to LGBTQ people, and their inclusion and equality.”
A statement in the complaint from the Northern Ontario Pride Network read in part, “In this day and age, it is unheard of for an Ontario municipality to defy the law and to refuse to recognize Pride in such a plainly discriminatory manner.”
BUT – here’s the good part: Even though the resolution recognizing Pride Month was voted down, LGBTQ activists – armed with rainbow flags, feather boas, and balloons – put together an “Emo ambush” Pride parade for the town this past Saturday.
Douglas Judson, the co-chair of Borderland Pride, an umbrella organization that represents several Pride celebrations in towns near the Minnesota-Ontario border, worked out a secret plan between residents and businesses in the area to plan an “ambush event.”
And so it was, over the weekend, that a 70-vehicle parade convoy carrying hundreds of supporters showed up in Emo. Some of them lived nearby, others said they drove up to three hours to attend the event. Due to COVID-19, a traditional Pride march gave way to a COVID parade-style procession of decorated vehicles.
Even with social distancing guidelines, the attendees set up booths, handed out Pride flags, and gave prizes for categories like “Emo Fair Queen 2020.”
Judson told HuffPost Canada, “This was like something that brought joy to our community during a time when, frankly, we’re all kind of starving for a bit of human connection. That’s part of the exercise of Pride.”
Judson, who grew up in Emo, added, “It exceeded our wildest expectations. It was really something to have people care that much about sending this message about the need for Pride in small communities.”