In what’s being touted as a first, the rainbow flag of gay pride is being hoisted on a Canadian military base, and in Alberta of all places.
The Canadian Press reports the flag, a symbol for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, is to be flown at CFB Edmonton for a week to coincide with the city’s Pride festival.
CP says the move came following a request from Master Warrant Officer John McDougall, a 23-year veteran of the armed forces.
“This is a huge turnaround from what used to be,” he told CP. “When I first joined, I would never even consider telling anyone that I was gay. It just wasn’t macho.
“To be at the stage now where it is not only recognized and accepted and tolerated, but the base commander of the one of the largest bases of Canada is willing to have that flag put up, it is just an amazing feeling.”
McDougall, who has been with his partner for 18 years, said being recognized and respected for who he is is important after years of risking his life in such places as Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
“It is a big event that it is happening and for the first time we will have a Pride flag flying at the base,” he said. “That being said, in this day and age of tolerance, it shouldn’t be a big issue.”
Base spokeswoman Lt. (Navy) Jessica MacDonald said soldiers on the base support the flag-raising, which was to take place Friday morning, and there has been no backlash.
“The flag-raising is really a symbol to all members of the LGBT community, whether they are civilian or serving members, that the Canadian Forces promotes principles of inclusiveness, equality and dignity,” she told CP.
While the U.S. military until 2011 wrestled with how to treat openly homosexual soldiers, the Canadian Armed Forces have allowed them to serve openly for two decades.
In 1992 the government reversed a policy that discouraged gay and lesbians from joining the military and freezing the careers of those who’d come out, said an article in The Maple Leaf, on the National Defence and Canadian Forces web site.
Soldiers have marched in annual gay pride parades to demonstrate the military’s new inclusive approach.
CFB Greenwood in Nova Scotia hosted Canada’s first military gay wedding in 2005, just months after the province’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on gay marriage, according to a CBC News report at the time. It wasn’t until July 2012 that a gay U.S. Air Force sergeant sealed a civil union with his civilian partner on a New Jersey military base, according to Gaystarnews.com.