More than 200 people participated in the Dyke March in downtown Toronto on Saturday afternoon, showcasing their LGBTQ+ pride despite COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor gatherings that remain in force in Ontario.
“We love to love,” said a participant wearing rainbow coloured socks and clothing.
Vibrant banners proclaimed, “We are nothing without the queer” and a group of male allies hoisted one saying, “Proud to call you family.”
The crowd shut down traffic on Yonge Street, and while crossing an intersection along Carlton Street, cyclists rang bells, drivers honked and passersby clapped to show their support. A small police escort followed the procession.
Children to people in their 60s participated in the march, waving flags, wearing colourful beads and sporting body decals spelling out words like “proud” and “dyke.”
The march stopped around 3 p.m. at Allan Gardens Conservatory, where participants continued to socialize and share their stories and experiences.
“Today has shown the beauty, magnificence, diversity and strength of the dyke community and what can happen when we take up space together,” Meg Fenway, one of the organizers, told the crowd through a megaphone.
Fenway told the Star that organizers felt it was important for the community to have an opportunity to gather. She estimated the turnout to be up to 300 people.
Meanwhile, many other Pride month events in the GTA and across Canada are taking place virtually, as they had last June.
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“So many queer spaces exist online, but we haven’t had access to in-person queer spaces for 15 months because of the pandemic. We wanted to bring people together,” she said in a telephone interview.
“For many, it was their first in-person gathering of the pandemic and we encouraged everyone to wear masks and distance themselves from one another,” she added.
Ontario is moving to the next stage of COVID-19 reopening on Wednesday in time for Canada Day the next day, and this would relax restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings.
However, Ontario’s outdoor gathering rules currently stipulate that outdoor organized events and social gatherings cannot exceed more than 10 people.
Protests and rallies of many kinds have been taking place during the weekends in the downtown on a regular basis throughout the pandemic, a Toronto police spokesperson said.
“It’s the same as it has been every weekend when there are protests, any and all of them. We’re there for everyone’s safety and we can lay charges . . . at a later date,” she added.
When asked why gatherings of hundreds of people are permitted to happen at all in contravention of COVID-19 restrictions, she said, “We can’t answer that.”
Joanna Chiu is a Vancouver-based reporter covering both Canada-China relations and current affairs on the West Coast for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu
Ashima Agnihotri is a reporter for the Star’s radio room based in Toronto. Reach them via email: [email protected]
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