Simcoe Pride

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Fierté Simcoe Pride
Fierté Simcoe Pride logo.jpg
Organization logo
MottoA Safe and Inclusive Simcoe County
TypeFestival organization based in Simcoe County, Ontario, Canada
Legal statusNot-for-profit corporation (active)
HeadquartersTay, Ontario
Region served
Simcoe County
Brandon Rhèal Amyot
Simcoe County unveils the pride flag for the first time during the 2014 Simcoe Pride, joining a large number of other lower-tier municipalities in the County.
Oro-Medonte Township was one of several Simcoe County communities that raised a flag for pride week 2013.

Fierté Simcoe Pride is an annual festival held in Simcoe County, Ontario, during the end of July and beginning of August each year. It is a celebration of the diversity of the LGBT community in Simcoe County. It is one of the larger regional gay pride festivals in Canada, featuring flag raisings and proclamations from across the County, educational events, artistic and cultural events, and a large signature closing event. Since forming, the organisation has expanded gradually, involving more year-round events. In 2016, the organisation celebrated its fifth anniversary Pride.

Leadership and organization[edit]

Pride Week and year-round events are run by Fierté Simcoe Pride, a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organisation. The mission of Fierté Simcoe Pride is to "create and offer inclusive events, services, and educational opportunities that rise above heterosexism, hetero-normativity and homo/bi/transphobia, promoting safe communities within Simcoe County." [1]

The organisation also uses a list of objectives and values as guidelines.[2]

Fierté Simcoe Pride is managed by a volunteer Board of Directors, who handle the finances, logistics and operations of the organisation and events. They also oversee the long-term vision, objectives and values. In addition, volunteers are involved in running the events.

The events are funded through donations, sponsorships, in-kind support, and fundraisers.

LGBT history in Simcoe County[edit]

Drag queen "Madame Outrageous", founder and president of the Craig Russell Fan Club, at Dusty's Den in the early 2000s

Organizing for the LGBT community in Simcoe County has been traced back to the mid 1980s/early 1990s with faith-based communities, various community-based committees, social groups and school-based supports.

These community based supports either relied on fundraising from a small pool of supporters, were offered for a fee or were sponsored through an organization. With a lack of sustainability, many of these supports no longer exist or have evolved into different resources like those offered by Rainbow Health Ontario and programming provided by the AIDS Committee of Simcoe County.[3]

Early celebrations and community[edit]

In 1984, the Gays and Lesbians Alliance of Simcoe County (GLAS) formed and ran until 2001. They held a cruise on the Serendipity Princess from 1996 to 2000, subsequently the boat cruise was run by: The Spot (bar) in 2001 and 2002, Club C'est La Vie from 2003 to 2005, Dusty's Den in 2006 and 2007, and Club Chill Events in 2008.

The Simcoe County Metropolitan Community Church (SCMCC), led by Reverend Carol Galbraith founded in the early '90s, around 1993, and advocated for the LGBT community as well as the legalization of Same-sex marriage in Canada.[4] It also provided support to the community and each year held a banquet and awards ceremony to honour people and organizations who supported and advocated for the lesbian, gay, bisexual an transgender community the region.[5] The congregation met at Grove Street United Church and existed until the mid to late 2000s.[6]

H.O.P.E. Theatre Troupe and youth[edit]

The Holding On through Peer Education (H.O.P.E.) Theatre Troupe (through the ACSC, now the Gilbert Centre) was a program that had some success with securing funding in the late 1990s, however it was limited. Although not an LGBT specific program, LGBT youth found it to be a safe space. In the early 2000s the program was no longer sustainable due to lack of funding. The LGBT Youth Drop-In, a sponsored program of the AIDS Committee of Simcoe County had success in the early 2000s although the program depended on community fundraisers and in-kind donations. Eventually this program could no longer sustain itself.

In 2011 two Ryerson University students identified a need to support LGBT youth in Simcoe County. They started the LGBT Youth Connection with their own resources and support of other organizations. The program is still running, and has expanded from Barrie into other parts of the county.[7]

Opening Closets[edit]

In 2003, Huronia Transition Homes formed the Diversity Committee and ran the Opening Closets conference, which took place every other year. They eventually renamed themselves the Opening Closets Conference Committee. The conference was an opportunity to inform and train a variety of workers on sexual diversity and LGBT issues. In 2009 the Opening Closets conference had a particular focus on LGBT youth. This committee has been, to the best of knowledge, non-active since 2010.

Formalizing Pride and community work[edit]

In May 2002, PFLAG Barrie formed, running meetings to support for families, allies and people who are LGBT.[8] The group struggled for several year, and had different people run it, until October 2008 when a dedicated family took it over.[9] To the best of knowledge, the group has been inactive since 2011.

From 2003 to 2005 [10][11][12] a Pride week was run by the Simcoe County Pride Committee with the main events taking place in Barrie, Ontario, as well as support from Midland, Ontario, Penetanguishene, Bradford West Gwillimbury and Orillia.

In 2008, LGBTA Barrie formed (formalizing in 2009), holding fundraisers and bar events at Memories. They also did a flag raising in 2008 to honour International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) and ran a pride week in August 2008 and 2009.[13]

Once Simcoe Pride formed, the Board decided to hold Simcoe Pride Week in or around the month of August (as opposed to during June, the popular month to hold Pride events) to honour the past pride events that existed in the County.

School-based support[edit]

The Georgian LGBTQA Association of Georgian College formed in 2009, holding a flag raising at the Barrie Campus. It has since rebranded twice, now operating under the name of Georgian Pride. In March of that year they held a World Café in partnership with Rainbow Health Ontario (RHO). After this conference, several organizations and events formed, such as Muskoka Pride (first as a picnic, then a committee in 2010),[14] the Simcoe County LGBTQ Network, and the Safety and Equity Conference.

In 2010 the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation District 17 Human Rights Committee organized their first conference for students who participated in their Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs). The conferences was organized in 2010 and 2011 to support students through educational and leadership development.

2009 to present day[edit]

Some of the many pioneers of LGBT work in Simcoe County in Barrie, August 2009. Left to right: Matt Commandant, Jason Jones, Tina Thibideau, Alyssa Nesbitt, Rob Fortner, and Andrew Baker.

A pride week and flag raising were held in Barrie in 2010 from August 23 to 27 by LGBTA Barrie, with events and a boat cruise organized by Club C'est La Vie and community members.[15]

In 2014, Barrie Pride formed, holding a successful first pride week and first pride parade in the second week of June.[16] Barrie Pride was again held in June 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Fierté Simcoe Pride: 2012 to present[edit]

The inaugural flag raising of Simcoe Pride in Barrie. L to R: J. Andrew Baker, Mayor Jeff Lehman, and Mary Sue Robinet. Robinet and Baker were founding members of Simcoe Pride.

Simcoe Pride was founded on May 13, 2012[17] with a small committee of volunteers. Much like past pride groups, the committee started off will small fundraisers, such as dances, drag shows and brunches. However, the founders made it clear that it would be a "lasting force" in the community.[18]

Inaugural Pride Week[edit]

The inaugural Simcoe Pride Week run by Simcoe Pride, which was planned in under three months, was held in 2012 from August 3 to 11.[19] With the exception of one event, the dusk till dawn movie night in Oro-Medonte, this pride week was all hosted in Barrie. No boat cruise was held that year, due to limited resources. However, they did have a flag raising, spiritual service/blessing, candlelight vigil and march, a community art show and silent auction, and ended the week with a family fun fair and pride prom.[20]

Growth of support[edit]

Following the inaugural festival, Simcoe Pride began planning for pride week 2013, which took place from August 2 to 10. Simcoe Pride Week 2013 was larger than the year before, with eight days of events spread over nine days. In addition to hosting the first annual boat cruise, that did not happen the year before, the pride week (and its flag raisings) expanded from Barrie to other communities in the county, including Ramara, Oro-Medonte, New Tecumseth , Orillia, Innisfil, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Midland and Penetanguishene.[21] Other events included Saturday a family fun fair, dusk till dawn movie night, candlelight vigil, 'Make It Safe' march, community art show and silent auction, and all-ages semi-formal and close-off party.

The march, named 'Make It Safe', was held in response to an act of violence against a community member who was targeted and assaulted. Though violence and discrimination toward LGBT people is not unheard of, any victims are afraid to speak out. Although the march was planned earlier, organizers changed the name to reflect the violent attack as well as to raise awareness about other issues LGBT individuals face.[22][23]

The following year, Simcoe Pride Week was held from July 31 to August 9, 2014. This pride week was a considerably large festival in comparison to the past prides, this is because the week had support from the county and the largest number of municipalities yet, with flag raisings at the County of Simcoe, and in Barrie, Orillia, Bradford West Gwillimbury, Ramara, Innisfil, Wasaga Beach, Chippewas of Rama First Nation, New Tecumseth, Midland, Penetanguishene, Clearview, and Oro Medonte. With the exception of Clearview, all also proclaimed pride along with Severn and Adjala–Tosorontio. Collingwood, which has a policy against flag raisings and proclamations, did promote the festival on their website as a way to provide recognition.[24]

Essa, Springwater, Tay, and Tiny did not participate; Beausoleil First Nation did not reply and Canadian Forces Base Borden was not sent a request.

As well as the growth in municipal support, the festival had more events across the county garnering over a thousand in attendance during the week and 2,500 attendees at year round events according to festival organizers.

2015 Pride and advocacy work[edit]

Fierté Simcoe Pride 2015 was held from July 30 to August 8. With the continued growth of support from community members, municipalities and media, there was an increased effort to get the rest of the County to participate in Fierté Simcoe Pride.

In January 2015, the decision to fly the pride flag in Clearview was stalled at a Council meeting.[25] The Township had a policy against issuing proclamations in support of organizations, and usually didn't raise flags either but in 2014, an exception was made and council agreed to fly the pride flag at the municipal office for the first time. Councillor Robert Walker me the request opposition saying that in his Christian belief he would not be supporting it. At a Council meeting later in January, residents spoke in support of raising the flag and urged Council to review its policy.[26] After pressure from local residents and the attention of local, nation and international Pride organizations - including York Region Pride, Fierté Canada Pride and InterPride - Clearview Council reviewed its policy at the April 13 meeting and ruled in favour of issuing proclamations.[27][28][29] Clearview has currently not approved to raise the flag due to the availability of flagpoles and flag etiquette, however Simcoe Pride is working with the township to find an appropriate place to raise the flag.

In January 2015, Tiny Township decided 4-1 to proclaim Simcoe Pride Week 2015. They also requested a flag raising. The motion revised a resolution passed in March 2007, to the effect that the Franco-Ontario flag would be raised each year during Francophone Week, but that requests for other declarations and flag raisings would not be accepted. This Council decided to consider such requests case by case.[30]

In 2015 there was 16 proclamations, 14 flag raisings, and one banner unveiling at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital.[31] Tay, Springwater and Essa, did not participate; Canadian Forces Base Borden was sent a request but was unable to participate, and Collingwood maintained a no flag raising and no proclamation policy but supports pride in other ways.

As of 2015, an annual theme is selected for each Pride Week that reflects the current context of the queer community in the region and helps shape the festivities, the inaugural theme being "Freedom To Be."

Fifth anniversary and onward[edit]

Fierté Simcoe Pride 2016 was held from July 27 to August 6, 2016, under the theme "Celebrate." This also marked the fifth anniversary of the festival.[32] The festival saw a record amount of support from communities, with 20 of the 22 communities within Simcoe County proclaiming Pride or holding a flag raising. This included first ever Pride flag raisings in Tay, Essa, Collingwood, and Canadian Forces Base Borden.

On June 8, 2016, it was announced that a Trans Pride March would be held during the fifth annual festivities in Orillia.[33] Other prominent additions to the Pride festivities included the production of a "Pride Guide," a guide that included ads from inclusive businesses and services in the region as well as an events list,[34] and an affiliate events program.[35]

On July 6, 2016,[36] the Township of Springwater discussed waiving their procedural by-law that states that "the Township of Springwater shall not consider proclamations or resolutions dealing with matters outside its sphere of jurisdiction"[37] to allow for a proclamation and/or flag raising. Council voted to receive the report from the Chief Administrative Office, and voted in a recorded 5-1 vote to not waive the by-law.[38]


  1. ^ "Simcoe Pride - About Us" Fierté Simcoe Pride .
  2. ^ "About" Fierté Simcoe Pride.
  3. ^ "LGBT Youth Needs Assessment: Making It Better Today" Rainbow Health Ontario, January, 2012.
  4. ^ "Metropolitan Community Churches" Perceptions: The Gay & Lesbian Newsmagazine of the Prairies .
  5. ^ "Simcoe County Metropolitan Community Church: 2001 Heroes" Equal Marriage, September 30, 2001.
  6. ^ "Gay congregation opens the doors as church grows" Huntsville Forester, December 19, 2003.
  7. ^ "Youth Programming" ACSC.
  8. ^ "PFLAG Barrie - Our Meetings.
  9. ^ "Coming out as a family" Barrie Examiner Saturday, August 21, 2010.
  10. ^ "Gays disappointed flag not flying" Huntsville Forester August 13, 2003.
  11. ^ "County homosexual community to celebrate Gay Pride Week" Huntsville Forester August 6, 2004.
  12. ^ "Gay community celebrates Pride Week" Huntsville Forester August 26, 2005.
  13. ^ "Community speaks out about homophobia" Barrie Examiner, Friday, May 15, 2009.
  14. ^ "Past Muskoka Pride Picnic & Events Muskoka Pride.
  15. ^ "Coming out as a family" Barrie Examiner Saturday, August 21, 2010.
  16. ^ "Barrie's first Pride Parade is scheduled for June 14" Barrie Examiner, Thursday, March 6, 2014.
  17. ^ "About Simcoe Pride" Simcoe Pride (Facebook Page).
  18. ^ "Simcoe Pride aims to boost county's gay community" Barrie Examiner, Thursday, August 2, 2012.
  19. ^ "Past Pride Weeks" Simcoe Pride
  20. ^ "Several activities planned for Simcoe Pride Week" Barrie Examiner, Tuesday, August 7, 2012.
  21. ^ "Pride in Simcoe" Orillia Packet & Times, Friday, July 26, 2013.
  22. ^ "Victim using march to heal" Barrie Advance, August 6, 2013.
  23. ^ "Simcoe Pride hosts candlelight vigil and march in Barrie" Barrie Examiner, Wednesday, August 7, 2013.
  24. ^ "Clearview residents express disappointment in council, saying Pride flag should be flown" Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin, Tuesday, January 27, 2015.
  25. ^ "Decision to fly pride flag in Clearview stalls at council table"[permanent dead link] The Creemore Echo, Friday, January 16, 2015.
  26. ^ "Clearview should fly Pride flag, say residents" The Wasaga Sun, Tuesday, January 27, 2015.
  27. ^ "Clearview council changes rules on proclamations" The Wasaga Sun, Wednesday, April 15, 2015.
  28. ^ "Clearview council to consider proclamations" Archived 2015-07-10 at the Wayback Machine The Creemore Echo, Friday, April 17, 2015.
  29. ^ "Discussion of future of Creemore’s Collingwood Street bridge pits romantics against realists " The Collingwood Enterprise Bulletin, Thursday, April 16, 2015.
  30. ^ "Report on Council: January 26, 2015" The Tiny Cottager, Monday, January 26, 2015.
  31. ^ "Past Pride Weeks" Fierté Simcoe Pride
  32. ^ "Pride flags raised across north Simcoe" Midland Mirror
  33. ^ "Press Release - Trans Pride March" Fierté Simcoe Pride
  34. ^ "Advertise in the Pride Guide" Fierté Simcoe Pride
  35. ^ "Affiliate Events" Fierté Simcoe Pride
  36. ^ "Regular Council Agenda - July 6, 2016" Township of Springwater
  37. ^ "Procedure By-Law: Proceedings - 8.21 Resolutions for Endorsement" Township of Springwater
  38. ^ "Regular Council Meeting - July 6, 2016 (12:45 to 24:45)" Township of Springwater

External links[edit]