A gathering of nearly 200 people huddled around Victoria Park on Spring Garden Road in Halifax on Wednesday evening, with many smiling, shaking hands or embracing one another with hugs, as part of a rally organized by the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project.
Scott Jones is shown surrounded by family, friends, and members of the community at the Anti-Homophobia and Transphobia Rally Wednesday evening in Victoria Park in Halifax. PATRICK MCKENNA
The not-for-profit group, which serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) population in Nova Scotia, was celebrating the upcoming International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.
The message was clear from special guest speaker Scott Jones on the chilly evening in Halifax.
He says the only way to change these phobias is to talk about it frequently and openly.
“They’re just walls and you can bring them down much easier than the walls of a house,” he said, adding that it needs to be a tireless effort.
“We stick together at these rallies, but when we leave we need to be individual ambassadors for our community.”
Jones, who is openly gay, was stabbed in the back twice and had his throat slashed last October in New Glasgow, in what some believe was a hate crime. He is now a paraplegic, but also has a new outlook on life.
Jones and his friends have since started the “Don’t Be Afraid” campaign because he says he wanted to turn this negative situation into an opportunity to examine and relinquish the fears that surround intolerance.
The rainbow-painted signs for the campaign have been sprouting up all over the globe and have seen promotion from such celebrities as the Backstreet Boys and Rick Mercer.
Money raised will go directly to setting up educational and awareness programs in Atlantic Canada.
Jones says coming from a small town he had preconceived judgments about his own community, but after holding an awareness event, the people of New Glasgow surprised him.
“I really thought the campaign would not be well received there because we don’t talk about it (homosexuality), but it was the complete opposite, everyone was engaging in conversation and left feeling inspired.”
The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia takes place Saturday, with events in more than 120 countries across the globe.