HALIFAX -- Several Maritime cities are planning to go ahead with celebrating Pride in summer 2020. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many festivities and events have been forced to take place online. But despite dreams of grand and flashy parades being deferred, organizers say the upcoming celebrations may be more important than ever in delivering their message.

"The [Halifax] Pride Festival has always been more than just a parade or those big gatherings," says Halifax Pride Board chair, Morgan Manzer. "It's an opportunity for us to remember our shared history and remember what we're fighting for in the future because there are still a lot of folks who are feeling left behind."

Halifax Pride Festival begins on Thursday, and while there will be some in-person events – which will adhere to physical distancing protocol – most festival events have shifted online.

Adapting To The Times

It's been a difficult adjustment, but staff say challenges are nothing new.

"Since we had our first protest march here in Halifax in 1988 – 75 people walking down Brunswick Street, some with bags on their heads – this festival has constantly been evolving to meet the needs and serve the queer community," says Manzer.

In New Brunswick, festivities began on Friday with pride flags being raised in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton. The three cities have joined forces to host the first Pride NB celebration.

"Instead of doing three smaller virtual Pride weeks, let's pool our resources and our talent and put on a bigger Pride festival than New Brunswick has ever seen," says Saint John Pride president, Michael Cummings, explaining the decision to band together.

Pride NB will feature film screenings, educational workshops, art shows, bingo, and trivia over live streams and video chat. While they can't gather in person, organizers say the message of Pride is more important than ever.

"It's about making sure that people who are marginalized have room and space to see each other, and still celebrate the fact that we exist and do it safely," says River of Pride president, Zivi Richard. "So, there will still be parties, but they will be from your home."

Community Support

With the absence of many group gatherings, organizers say individuals' need for community and support has increased.

"During a pandemic like this, maybe they're isolating with family members or roommates who may not recognize their gender or sexual orientation," says Cummings. "So, it's especially important during this time that we continue with our pride celebrations and education to show them that they're not alone."

2020 Pride festivals also have special significance in relation to recent social uprisings, including Black Lives Matter – which echoes the roots of the Pride movement.

"Pride was founded by riots because people were facing police brutality for being LGBTQ," says Richard. "I think those sentiments are still present. So, making sure you can find other people like you is really securing, it feels safe to find your people."

Richard notes for some individuals, the intersectionality of their identities presents unique challenges.

"LGBTQ people, who are white, live homophobia in one way, but when you're racialized, it's a completely different type – it's layered," says Richard.

Richard also notes LGBTQ individuals face various other problems that affect them more than other groups of people.

"LGBTQ people live with disproportionate mental health issues, suicide, drug addiction, homelessness," says Richard. "So, making sure that we build communities that see each other, that's the core of why Pride exists."

Come One, Come All

Meanwhile, Pride organizers across the Maritimes hope their message of communal support and unity will continue to bring people together – even if they have to stay apart.

"You'll meet new people and make new friends – even if it's online," says Cummings. "So, we really encourage everyone to tune in to as many events as possible."