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VIDEO - Calgary's Mayor Nenshi shows his Pride

News by Jason Clevett (From September 2011 Online)
VIDEO - Calgary's Mayor Nenshi shows his Pride
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Calgary's mayor Naheed Nenshi made history as the first of the city's mayors to marshal the Pride Parade this past September 4th, 2011. Wearing a purple shirt brandishing the slogan "straight not narrow," he waved to cheering onlookers and had a permanent smile on his face as he lead the parade down Stephen Avenue from Olympic Plaza to the festival at Shaw Millennium Park.

"This is awesome, congratulations to all of you. I want to make sure we acknowledge all the people whose hard work made this happen," Neshi told revellers at the festival after being presented with a rainbow cowboy hat. "This is what our community is about, making sure that together we understand that we are stronger, that every single kid that grows up in this city, regardless of economic opportunity, family status, race, gender or sexual orientation - every single kid that grows up in this city deserves the opportunity to be the very best they can be. If a guy like me can end up being in this position then any of the kids I see in the audience today can be anything."

Marshalling the parade was a "no-brainer" he said.

"I had an easy job, I just got to ride in a convertible. Much easier than riding a horse in the Stampede parade. My really easy job is reflecting the hard, hard jobs of so many of you throughout the years in your endless fight for equality, for community, and a better Calgary and Canada. My presence today is just a very small way of honoring all those who have come before."

Speaking to the media after his speech, Nenshi stated he believed that the 15,000 in attendance was a sign of growing changes within society.

"I think things are shifting globally particularly in this city. It is really important for us to be seen as welcoming and be welcoming to all kinds of people. The future success of our city depends on our ability to maintain our status as one of the very best places in the world to live. We need to attract people to live, invest, and make their careers here and that means we have to be open to everyone. I think that is really happening. I got elected mayor. The funniest thing about my last year is that people across Canada and around the world, the first question I get asked by a non-Calgarian is, how does a visible minority, minority faith guy get elected mayor in Calgary? None of those things mattered during the election, people voted for me because they thought I would do the best job. People get hired and promoted in this city not based on their background or who their dad was or how much money they have, but on what they bring to the table. That is something special about Canada and Calgary in particular and we have to fight hard to protect that."

Some credited the increased attendance to Nenshi's participation, something he disagreed with.

"I don't think so, people can see me around town quite a lot. I am thrilled if I was able to shine a light on some of the work these community volunteers are doing. This is my second Pride Parade; I marched in it last year in the rain with a lot less people. When they asked me to do it I thought it would be a good thing to do. We haven't received phone calls or angry letters, people just see it as part of what mayors do. I had colleagues from City Council here, it was a good thing."

Although his office didn't receive complaints, local media with comment sections did receive negative comments, including the inevitable complaints of "perversion" and the old standby about a "heterosexual pride parade." Nenshi, actively involved at events throughout Calgary, pointed out some of the events he has attended recently.

"I am the mayor for all Calgarians, and will happily go to events that Calgarians put on to celebrate themselves regardless of where they come from. Just this week I have been to events for the Muslim community, for Pakistan Independence Day, and here for Gay Pride."

One criticism that Calgary receives is that it doesn't have a defined "gaybourhood" like Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. Nenshi feels that Calgary is different in not dividing into sections.

"We will see the community grow the way that it wants to grow. It is a great thing in this city that we don't typically segregate anything. We have different incomes, backgrounds and ethnicities all living in the same neighborhoods which is a terrific thing. As Calgary grows and flourishes the community will as well."

2011-09 - Calgary Pride - Mayor Naheed Nenshi Speech and Media Scrum

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