Gloria Song, writing for Daily Xtra, writes about the vagaries of GLBT identity and history in Nunavut.
Somehow, out of the controversy over a flag came the idea for a party.
It began when the city of Iqaluit raised a rainbow flag at city hall to protest anti-gay laws in Russia during the 2014 Winter Olympics, at the initiative of city Councillor Kenny Bell and Iqaluit resident Anubha Momin. Councillor Simon Nattaq argued that the decision had not been approved by council, and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc president Cathy Towtongie commended Nattaq for speaking out. These events sparked lively discussion among the residents of Nunavut about same-sex issues, including whether it’s within Inuit custom to be gay.
In the midst of this discussion, the idea for a party emerged, specifically, an Iqaluit Pride party, the first of its kind in the capital city of Nunavut.
The woman behind the party is Michelle Zakrison, a newcomer to Iqaluit. “I just moved here in May and started Iqaluit Pride,” she says. “I’ve volunteered with a lot of Prides, and I’ve been in student politics and that kind of stuff for a long time. I thought if I came up, I’d like to support whoever’s doing that, organizing that up here. After I talked to a bunch of people, nothing seemed to be going on. I thought, Well, I’ll create this Twitter [@Iqaluit Pride].”
[. . .]
Maureen Doherty first moved up north in 1983 and later came out as a lesbian at the age of 50. Along with Peter Workman and Allison Brewer, she has been actively involved in the same-sex-rights movement for more than a decade in Iqaluit.
“It started off with a small picnic, and then it grew,” Doherty recounts over the phone. “That particular summer of 2004 or 2005, we had huge Pride picnics. In fact, if politicians weren’t there, they came up to you and explained why they weren’t there, lest it be construed they might be homophobic. It was really quite exciting.”
These events unfolded around the same time that the Nunavut Human Rights Act was passed into law in 2003. During this time, there was much debate about whether sexual orientation should be included as a prohibited ground of discrimination. As a member of the steering committee for the legislation, Doherty recalls the discussions: “As well as there being a lot of support for the LGBT community, there was also a lot of concern and a lot of fear and homophobia. But the good thing is that it came out, because there was discussion all across Nunavut about this act and what it would mean and what human rights are. It was actually heartwarming to hear some of the things people had to say, about how historically there had been a place of acceptance in the Inuit culture.”