HALIFAX -- The 33rd annual Halifax Pride Festival kicked off Thursday with the raising of the pride flag in front of City Hall.

This year, much of the festival has shifted online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educational workshops, lectures, art shows, and film screenings are being held virtually.

“While the parade offers incredible opportunities for gathering and celebration, pride is more than just that one event,” says Adam Reid, the executive director of Halifax Pride.

“Pride is a community celebration where we get to celebrate and advocate. So we're doing other things this year that we still think are equally valuable and equally important.”

Reid says it was important to plan some in-person gatherings as well, including a march and candlelight vigil.

“The pride festival is a time for gathering for our community, so while online does offer great opportunities for accessible events, we know how much those in-person opportunities for folks to gather mean to our community,” says Reid.

Pride festivals in Moncton, Saint John, and Fredericton have joined forces to virtually host New Brunswick's first ever provincial pride festival.

Organizers say the first week of the festival has gone so well, they are discussing keeping virtual events post-pandemic.

“Hopefully we'll be able to gather again and have our regular parade, but with virtual we're able to include audiences from across the country and around the world, really,” says Michael Cummings, the president of Saint John Pride.

Social activist group GameChangers902 have been named Halifax Pride ambassadors.

“Black, queer, and trans folks have always been at the forefront of understanding pride as being anti-police brutality and abolitionist at its core. So it kinda feels like pride is now starting to return to some of those ideas, and integrate them in a way that prioritizes the most marginalized and most racialized, which is actually how pride was created,” says Kate MacDonald, 2020 Halifax Pride ambassador.

Pride amplified is this year’s theme, which Reid says speaks to the need to amplify the voices of communities that are all too often sidelined.

“So this is our chance to shine the spotlight on folks like GameChangers902, our incredible ambassadors, and let everyone know about the work they are doing to help bring an end to societal racism and police violence,” says Reid.

Some of the events planned for the week include a virtual art show on Friday, a virtual drag show on Saturday, and the candlelight vigil and march on Monday night. Organizers say physical-distancing will be enforced at all events and recommend attendees wear masks.