NIC in the News: Port Hardy shows its pride at NIC flag unveiling

Story by Kathy O'Reilly, North Island Eagle. Published June 21, 2019

From left to right, District of Port Hardy Councillor Treena Smith, North Island College Mixalakwila campus Coordinator Caitlin Hartnett and Elder in Residence Maggie Sedgemore unveil the flag at a Pride ceremony on June 14. Below, Kwakiutl Band Councillor Corinne Hunt, left, spoke about the much different experience she had coming out in 1973.

Photo courtesy: Kathy O'Reilly.

It’s not often that you see a rainbow on a bright and sunny day, but that is exactly what happened on June 14 when North Island College and the Port Hardy Pride committee unfurled a flag at the Mix̱alakwila campus.

“I feel proud that I have been an ally to the LGBTQ2+ community since I was young, because I was surrounded by people who educated me,” said Campus Coordinator Caitlin Hartnett.

“I remember when I was 13 or 14, I had a ‘Boycott Homophobia’ sticker in my locker and I was also bullied tirelessly for having that sticker in my locker,” Hartnett said.

“I hope that we now live in a time when we do not see that bullying, and if we do, we are always working against it,” she said.

“On behalf of North Island College Mix̱alakwila campus we are very proud to raise this flag today. We see it as a representation of the inclusive environment and ethos of NIC and the commitment to continued work to ensure all peoples and identities are accepted and heard,” Hartnett said.

“This flag, in particular, represents a safe space where we honour the voices, stories and identities of all people. A space where we also recognize the past and ongoing oppressions that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, two-spirit, inter-sex and asexual people have experienced and do experience,” she said.

“We wish to work towards a world in which these oppressions are no longer a reality, in which all LGBTQ2+ people are empowered.”

Hartnett shared a quote from American writer, talk show television host, writer, producer and transgender rights activist Janet Mock.

“I believe that telling our stories first to ourselves, and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion and violence, but it can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence and community.”

“We hope that here it leads to love, understanding, transcendence and community,” Hartnett said.

“So much of the work here today has been supported and driven by the Port Hardy Pride Society and so it is also this group we want to honour and celebrate today,” she said

Corrine Hunt, from the Kwakiutl Band council, also spoke at the event.

“I’ve recently relocated back here to this beautiful area and I am so happy to see this event,” Hunt said.

“I came out in 1973, but it was a different time. In our school we had some gay alliance people come in to talk to us and it was behind a door and people were afraid to look in,” Hunt recalled.

“There were four of us in the room and here we are (today) on the parking lot of the college in a small town in Canada. I think that is pretty cool,” said Hunt.

“I feel very emotional about this, because it is just so beautiful to see.”

District of Port Hardy Councillor Treena Smith also spoke at the ceremony.

“Thank you to Garth (Holden) and his team for their hard work over the last few years. They are the ones who really put in the groundwork for this and obtained grant funding to make this happen and thank you to our Port Hardy Pride committee for the time and dedication on organizing this event and many more to come this summer,” Smith said.

“I am full of gratitude and honoured to be a part of this ceremony today. The rainbow flag is a beautiful, inclusive symbol. It represents respect for diversity in others, acceptance and pride in who we are,” she said.

“This event is special to me. I was born and raised in Port Hardy and after trying really hard to be straight, I came out 14 years ago in this town. I was terrified of not being accepted, but it turned out to be an exciting and liberating experience for me because it felt good to be all of me in my home town,” said Smith.

“So, looking at this flag, I feel proud that it is visible in our community.

With social media influence nowadays, Smith said, “it’s challenging just to be human, let alone identifying with the LGBTQ2+. So, again I look at this flag and see a light shining and welcoming, announcing to our community members and visitors there is respect for diversity, acceptance and pride present in Port Hardy.”

“In some of our cultures they were known as two-spirited people and they were revered,” said Elder in Residence Maggie Sedgemore.

In Mix̱alakwila college the symbol of the raven features prominently.

“The raven is the one that brought light to the world, to educate the world, and I think this occasion is bringing the light to the world,” Sedgemore said.

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