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York Pride Festival adds trans march, gets boost from province

Organization readying for new events at two-day June festival, and gets a $20,000 tourism grant from provincial government
York Pride and dignitaries gathered for a funding announcement for the upcoming festival. From left, Dave Williams, Jennifer McLachlan, Mayor John Taylor, Joanne Sweers, Jacob Gal, Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy, Niina Felushko, Rebecca Gardiner, Deputy Mayor Tom Vegh.

York Pride is readying itself for plenty of new initiatives for its annual festival this June in Newmarket, and is getting a $20,000 boost from the provincial government to help.

The province announced the grant to this morning from its Experience Ontario 2024 Program, which supports in-person festivals and events. As part of York Pride this year, it is also launching its first trans march.

York Pride director of operations Jacob Gal said they are grateful for the support of the grant and that they would work to keep building up the event.

“It really takes a whole community to make this event happen,” Gal said at a May 10 news conference at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons. "We love to build dialogue in the community, and ultimately, we want to make a York Region that doesn’t have a load of hate and discrimination. We want to create an even playing field for everybody, and ultimately, we want to teach people what the core values of respect are.”

The grant is given annually to events on a tiered system based on how much they spend. York Pride has received $110,000 in grant funding over the past three years, excluding this latest round, but Gal said the funding is less this year because they are spending less.

Newmarket-Aurora MPP Dawn Gallagher Murphy said events like York Pride enrich lives and contribute to a strong economy.

“Your annual celebration is a testament to your commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and family-friendly weekend event,” she said. “This funding reflects our continued effort to support festivals and events that offer programming that encourages people to travel, draw tourists to our local community and increase visitor spending.”

The trans march takes place Friday, June 14, before the Saturday parade, going from the Town of Newmarket’s offices on Mulock Drive to Riverwalk Commons. Gal said they have been asked to hold such a march and they want to support the trans community as best they can.

“We wanted to introduce it to the community and create a space for our trans and gender-diverse individuals to feel like they can be included,” Gal said.

He added that hate-motivated incidents have been on the rise in Canada, including among the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

The organization is also preparing to celebrate 25 years of the Pride movement in York Region in 2025, with year-long festivities and initiatives to mark the occasion. That will include a Pride Pod, a trailer funded in part by the federal government with a VR system that will attend different locations.

“There’s lots to look forward to,” Gal said.