Photo: Lauren Collins Surrey Pride Society founder and president Martin Rooney speaks to a small crowd gathered at the SFU Surrey during a pride flag raising. It was part of a 50-city “day of awareness” of the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of certain sexual acts on Tuesday, May 14, 2019. In the foreground is Surrey RCMP Corporal Elenore Sturko, an openly lesbian woman in the country’s largest RCMP detachment, also spoke during the event.

Surrey Pride Society raises the flag at SFU campus

Flag raising in commemoration of 50th anniversary of decriminalization of certain sexual acts

Martin Rooney says the presentation of the pride flag at the SFU Surrey campus is a “powerful, powerful message that we’re putting out to the City of Surrey.”

Surrey Pride Society took part in a 50-city “day of awareness” of the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of certain sexual acts Tuesday (May 14) at the SFU Surrey campus. The event also included the history project, Beyond 1969, which included interviews with people of their memories of 1969 and beyond, along with the youth perspective 50 years later.

RELATED: Surrey group for LGBTQ+ youth aims to ‘train the next generation of activists’, April 3, 2019

On June of 1969, Bill C-150 received royal assent, which introduced major amendments to the Canadian Criminal Code, such as decriminalizing homosexual acts between men over the age of 21.

Rooney, the founder of Surrey Pride Society, said the flag presentation was also the kickoff to the 20th annual Surrey Pride.

RELATED: Surrey Pride celebrates 20 years with biggest party yet, March 22, 2019

Asked before the presentation about how he would feel seeing the flag there, Rooney said, “I think I’m going to feel very proud. I mean, I founded pride 20 years ago and never did I believe that 20 years later we would actually be sitting here with universities and schools and businesses supporting at the extent they’re going to support this year.”

Rooney said Surrey Pride Society was approached by Vancouver Pride Society about the Canadian 50-city flag raising.

The society initially wanted to raise the flag at Surrey City Hall, but an email from city staff to the society said that “based on our current flag policy and practice, will not participate in this opportunity.”

“When we approached the City (of Surrey), they wouldn’t fly the flag, so SFU is embracing what we’re doing,” Rooney said.

Steve Dooley, executive director of SFU Surrey, said it was a “really important event that’s being commemorated here.”

“The SFU Surrey campus is open for everyone and this community… we want to make sure that everyone feels welcome on campus, that we are a tolerant and inclusive space here. As I keep saying, everybody’s welcome.”

Jen Marchbank, the liaison between SFU Surrey and Surrey Pride Society, as well as the lead on the Beyond 1969 project, said that as a queer SFU faculty member, it’s important for her to see the flag presentation.

“It really shows that the management here, the executive here, are incredibly supportive and inclusive. It makes it a healthier workplace for myself, any students who are walking past will feel affirmed,” Marchbank said. “This isn’t just about lip service, and the very fact that Surrey Pride is going to take place, not just down there (by the plaza) but up here (in the mezzanine)… This is really stepping up and making it an inclusive workplace, where queer folk and queer students feel safe here.”

As for the Beyond 1969 project, Marchbank said, it was to “give voice to those who remember” the bill and what was happening during that time and “to then put that information to young people who identify as LGBTQ and to see how they respond 50 years on.”

Marchbank said there were some “myths” surrounding the bill, adding that it wasn’t decriminalization of homosexuals, but decriminalization of certain sexual acts.

“It wasn’t a huge liberalization, but it was the beginning.”

RELATED: A Surrey Mountie’s take of reconciling her family’s history with the LGBTQ+ ‘purge’, March 25 2019



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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