A new rainbow crosswalk was unveiled at Georgian College's Orillia campus Thursday morning to kick off Pride month.
Dozens of students, college officials and residents gathered on campus to take part in a ribbon-cutting and Pride flag raising.
“This Pride month, Georgian College is proud to celebrate the contributions and ongoing accomplishments and activism of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, the journey towards Georgian’s commitment to decolonization, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging,” said Mary Louise Noce, dean of human services and community safety.
“The fundamental belief that everyone should be treated fairly and equitably, with respect and dignity, is key – not only during Pride month, but throughout the year," Noce added.
The new crosswalk arrives after several years of advocacy by the Georgian College Student Association (GCSA), whose members worked with college officials to make it a reality this spring after conversations about the project were put on hold through the pandemic.
“Today, you can see the beautiful results of what happens when you don't give up on the things that you believe in, and (when) you advocate for the things that you feel are important,” said Brooke Corner, GCSA’s vice-president of student engagement. “It is something that may seem small to some, but will have a large impact on many.
“It is a way of showing our students and staff that we hear you, we see you, and we stand with you," Corner added.
Brady Zapalski, Georgian’s student life co-ordinator, said the work carried out by the Orillia student association inspired several other Georgian College locations to bring rainbow crosswalks to their campuses, as well.
“Our team of GCSA in Orillia started pushing for it and advocating and asking for it, and then they slowly branched out to all the other GCSA … connections that they have at other campuses, and those campuses also wanted the same thing,” Zapalski said.
“It's nice because it's not just on our campus, it’s several of our campuses, so we're building a welcoming space for students and staff, and I think people will see how impactful that is just as the time goes on,” said Corner.
Speakers at the event highlighted how far the 2SLGBTQIA+ has come over the past several decades, moving from a place of persecution in society to openly celebrating who they are today.
“On Aug. 28, 1971, we had our first gay rights protest at Parliament Hill. On Dec. 15 1973, homosexuality was no longer considered a mental disorder,” GCSA president Sarah Ortiz said in a statement read by Zapalski. “For many of us, these historic events have happened within our lifetime.”
“To me, Pride means acceptance. It means equity and love all around. Pride means being our authentic selves, offering safe spaces, and refraining from judgment,” Ortiz wrote.