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Children lead the Pride movement in little Saskatchewan.  Foam Lake community

It took 10 years of quiet life in Foam Lake before Laura Stewart had the chance to take part in a pride parade in her Saskatchewan community.

After moving from Vancouver to the small town, about 150 kilometers northeast of Regina, kissing Pride wasn’t something the dentist did very publicly.

This changed when some kids in the community started pushing for change and more Pride activities.

“They inspired me, and I’m probably going to choke talking about it,” Stewart said with tears in her eyes.

“It’s liberating, you know, to be able to go back and walk in the parade and show… who we love doesn’t really matter, and everyone has the right to be who they are.”

Last year, an eight-year-old girl from the city who wanted to attend a Pride parade encouraged the community to hold her first, according to Stewart.

Foam Lake held its second Pride Parade on June 11 of this year.

Community members in Foam Lake, Saskatchewan come together to paint a crosswalk on May 31, 2022. (Submitted by Dr. Laura Stewart)

Since the 2021 parade, a group of girls have stepped up and, with the help of a teacher, organized a social justice group at their school called We All Matter, or WAM.

Children have also been the driving force behind other Pride activities this year, including a bigger parade, raising the Pride Flag, painting a Pride Flag mural at a crosswalk and creating the Foam Lake Pride Society. Stewart was also one of the founding members of the new Pride company.

“We can all make people feel…more accepted”

Stewart, originally from Moosomin, Sask., made no secret of who she was when she returned to the province about 12 years ago after living in British Columbia.

However, neither did she and her partner embrace or celebrate who they were, she said.

She was out, “but when we moved from Vancouver to a smaller town, we became calmer,” Stewart said.

“We didn’t want to be… ‘pushing our agenda,’ as some of our naysayers would call it.”

Children lead the Pride movement in little Saskatchewan.  Foam Lake community
Dr. Laura Stewart, right, at the 2022 Foam Lake Pride Parade. She is one of the founding members of the new Foam Lake Pride Society. (Kristen Michalchuk)

Ariana Michalchuk is one of the girls mobilizing for change and acceptance in the town of about 1,200 people.

The 11-year-old says she came to see her parents two years ago and told them she was part of the Pride community.

She is now a member of the WAM group and the Foam Lake Pride Society.

“I think it’s important in small towns because it makes you feel like you’re not alone and belong,” Michalchuk said.

“When I spoke to my family they were awesome, and the same with my extended family and a lot of my teachers and friends. They were all amazing about it.”

Michaluk and his friends and family made more than 600 ribbons for this year’s Pride, Stewart said.

The 11-year-old said it was an amazing experience for her to take part in the parade in Foam Lake this year.

“It’s great to know that we can all make people feel more comfortable, more loved, and more accepted,” Michaluk said.

Children lead the Pride movement in little Saskatchewan.  Foam Lake community
Children and adults marched together in the 2022 Foam Lake Pride Parade. (Nelson Bryksa)

Preventing the “exodus” of 2SLGBTQ youth

Many people seem to have embraced the Pride movement in town, but some girls say more changes are still needed.

This includes Libia Helgason, who said she faced backlash last year in high school from older students.

She and other WAM members are already planning their next activity — an art project in the high school entrance area to raise awareness, Helgason said.

“I love that these girls have social justice in mind,” Stewart said.

“Now my Pride community is very different from what it was when I lived in Vancouver. But I love it.”

Morning Edition – Saskatchewan6:18Foam Lake Pride Society forms after young girls push for change in community

It may be a small community – but Pride is definitely big in Foam Lake this month, even though there are less than 1,200 people living in the town. A group of girls push for change in pride and acceptance. We’ll speak with two members of the Foam Lake Pride Society, Dr. Laura Stewart and 11-year-old Ariana Michalchuk.

Stewart hopes to see more boys joining the WAM group and more people showing their support for the Pride community.

It’s impressive to see the girls leading the city’s Pride movement, she said, adding that she hopes young members of the 2SLGBTQ (two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/in questioning) will not feel the need to leave their Saskatchewan towns in the future.

“Children are our future. … It seems to me that we’re probably not going to have this huge, you know, exodus of our young LGBTQ people,” she said.

“Being accepted will mean that we will be able to keep these very capable and very talented LGBTQ young people in and around our province.