On Saturday, members of Moncton’s LGBTQ+ community kicked off the 20th anniversary of Pride Week with festivities in Centennial Park, which included a picnic and flag-raising ceremony. Despite progress made on behalf of the community, the event allowed attendees a chance to reflect on a time when acceptance didn't come as easily as it does presently.

The celebration attracted a large group of LGBTQ+ community members and allies to the park. Hosted by River of Pride, event organizers say similar gatherings weren’t always supported by the city – giving significance to the ceremony’s location.

“For them [LGBTQ+ community] to be here, they had to apply for a permit,” says River of Pride president, Zivi Richard. “So the city actually put in place regulations around people meeting in public spaces that are more than thirty people.”

38-years ago, members of the LGBTQ+ community planned to hold a similar picnic in the public park. When the city denied the group's permit to do so – the community challenged the rules.

"What happened was, they were denied their permit, and they still came – they still came to the bbq, they still wanted to meet,” says Richard. “Because our right as human beings is to be cared for and respected by our government."

For older members of the community, celebrations like this can be bittersweet. For Diane Doiron, discrimination based on her sexuality isn’t foreign to her as she was a victim of the ‘gay purge’ which forced LGBTQ+ people out of the Canadian Military.

"Our generation, we're a living history of what happened, and it was something that happened that nobody in Canada really knew about it,” says Doiron. “It took us to be able to speak our truth and share the history of the event."

Despite the discrimination faced by older members of the LGBTQ+ community, their courage and activism have made for a safer environment that younger members of the community appreciate.

"Putting their application out, and then being rejected and then having the courage to go and do it anyway – even if they weren't supported or if they were met with hatred for their actions,” says 16-year-old River of Pride volunteer, Harper Trottier. “I feel like it shows how much progress we've made."

And while organizers agree the city has progressed in terms of accepting the LGBTQ+ community, there’s still much more work to be done to show support.

“I think although we can now meet here without being assaulted; I think structurally, and as a community we still have room to grow," says Richard.  

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Eilish Bonang