Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here, speaking to you during the middle of Calgary Pride Week, a time when we come together as a city to celebrate people from all walks of life. Last year, 35,000 Calgarians attended the Pride Parade and Festival, and organizers expect even more this year. The growing success of this event shows that the values of the LGBT community—diversity, inclusiveness, and empowerment—are embraced by Albertans.
And yet, just a few years ago people were afraid to celebrate here in Calgary. Parade participants would often don masks for fear of being exposed. Our political leaders were often reluctant to endorse gay rights because of the public backlash. Today, however, Calgary’s Pride parade is only second in size to the Calgary Stampede.
This marks the fifth year for Calgary’s proPRIDE, and I want to thank Pride at Work for inviting me to such an important milestone. The growing acceptance of diversity in this country would not be possible without organizations like Pride at Work, whose tireless efforts have paved the way for many men and women to express themselves without fear of discrimination or prejudice. Tonight we celebrate you and the many partners and supporters of Pride at Work who continue to promote an open workplace.
As an Alberta elected Senator, I am committed to representing the interests of all Albertans. This includes championing the rights of the LGBT community. Just recently, I sponsored a bill in the Senate to validate marriages of non-resident same-sex couples. I am committed to work in the Senate to ensure that all Canadians are treated with dignity and respect.
And while it is important to celebrate our successes and how far we’ve come in Canada, we must not forget that many countries still do not recognize gay rights. People from around the world continue to face intolerance and violence. I have received many letters of concern regarding the recent anti-gay laws in Russia. In the face of such open discrimination, Canadians must show leadership in the desire for a free and diverse society. I would like to commend Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird for his strong opposition against the Russian government’s stance.
My office is always open, and I would love to collaborate on new ways to promote diversity and openness here and in Ottawa. I encourage all of you to get in touch with me should you have any concerns or suggestions. Thank you and have a great evening.[Check against delivery]