Bright symbol and gesture of solidarity

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Solidarity is certainly spreading here – always a good thing. Whether the support expressed for the LGBT community manages eventually to influence Russia remains to be seen, but all social movements begin somewhere.

With some encouragement from the Pictou County Rainbow Community, New Glasgow began flying the rainbow flag Thursday in the downtown area. A symbol for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, the flag has been gaining prominence and publicity in recent days here and across the country, as it is raised during the 2014 Winter Olympics underway in Sochi, Russia.

That country, infamously, created misgivings in the international community in recent months with its laws some have interpreted as menacing to the gay community. Specifically, it outlaws what it deems propaganda promoting ‘alternative’ lifestyles. But laws can sometimes be interpreted according to whims, an especially frightening proposition in a country known for the abuse of human rights in the past.

Alongside New Glasgow, other communities and provincial legislatures have raised the rainbow flag in solidarity at this time. Among them are Fredericton, Halifax, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Charlottetown and St. John’s, N.L.

We’re fortunate such an expression is freely available. In contrast, in Russia last Friday police arrested gay rights activists – some waving the rainbow flag – who were protesting Russia’s policies in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

It’s a huge concern when people are arrested for protesting. The possibility of such laws being used to persecute anyone in the future is a chilling reminder of Stalinism.

We’ll recall the collapse of the former Soviet Union, just over 20 years ago. The desire and demands for simple freedoms enjoyed elsewhere were the core of the regime’s demise. A simple, colourful flag flying in communities on the other side of the world might seem a small gesture, but it can also be strong inspiration.

Organizations: Pictou County Rainbow Community

Geographic location: Russia, New Glasgow, Sochi Fredericton Toronto Montreal Ottawa Edmonton Charlottetown St. Petersburg Moscow Soviet Union

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