Waterloo honours Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month at flag re-raising ceremony

Flags at the University of Waterloo entrance
Flags at the University of Waterloo entrance
The University of Waterloo is continuing its tradition of raising the Intersex-Inclusive Progress flag and the Two-Spirit Pride flag to acknowledge the University’s commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, where all’individuals feel seen, valued and respected. The flag raising ceremony marks the beginning of Pride Month and National Indigenous History Month, and offers an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of both Indigenous and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities on campus and beyond.

More than 200 campus members gathered at the entrance of the University of Waterloo on Monday, June 3, 2024. Michael Dorr (BMath ’01), associate vice-president, Marketing and Brand Strategy, began the event by sharing his experience as a student at the University and how the Glow Centre was a resource to him and the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

He then invited Dr. Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, up on stage. Out of respect for everyone who attended the event, Dr. Goel stepped off the stage when disrupted by protestors. Read the President’s blog for his remarks on Pride Month and Indigenous History Month.

Elder Myeengun Henry, Indigenous Knowledge Keeper reflected on his grandfather’s Indigenous teachings and stories that were passed down through generations. He shared a story about a beautiful world that accepts all’and celebrates the diversity the world brings. "Today will offer us a chance to live in peace, harmony and strength so that we can offer a beautiful life that the world is meant to be, with the flaws that it has and the hardship that we see." Elder Henry then offered the traditional ceremony of smudging to lead the path of truth, love and reconciliation.

On behalf of the Queer-Trans Alliance , Washington Silk, a counsellor for 2SLGBTQIA+ student support at Campus Wellness , shared their experience coming out as queer and transgender and what Pride means to them.

"Pride is the opposite of shame and more than anything else, it is suicide prevention. It pushes against isolation and pulls for community. When I see the Pride flag, it is a symbol to me that I am not alone." They reflected upon the importance of standing up for our beliefs and fighting for injustice through difficult and uncomfortable conversations. "We all come here together in good faith, especially our leadership to do the work that needs to be done on campus. To me, this means working towards a university that is an equitable place of learning and belonging for all, especially for queer and trans students, Black students, Indigenous students, Jewish students and Muslim students," Silk said.

Leith Bulford, a Two-Spirit student from the Faculty of Arts and co-coordinator for Glow Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, was then invited on stage where they reflected on their identity and the adversity their community has experienced. "We as Indigenous people embody strength by existing, by resisting, by pushing forward and by advocating for not just ourselves, but for all groups facing persecution and elimination. We are still here, and we will always be here." They acknowledged the privilege they have in identifying as Two-Spirit, thanks to the people who came before them.

They also reflected on their hope to be a leader for future generations and push for change, "...because our personhood matters and everyone’s personhood matters."

The Willow River Centre, Amy Smoke and Elder Henry then offered a Two-Spirit song while the two flags were re-raised by Silk and Bulford to mark the beginning of Pride Month. Smoke explained that the song was composed, created and gifted by the former director of the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, Lori Campbell.

Campus community members are encouraged the continue the conversation by attending events in June. Visit the Pride Month and Indigenous History Month websites to learn more about the initiatives and resources available.