Edmonton Canadian Forces Base to raise Pride flag to show support for GLBT community

EDMONTON – In what is being called a first in Canada, a rainbow-coloured Pride flag is to be raised at an Alberta military base Friday in a ceremony to be attended by senior officers and civilian members of the GLBT community.

Master Warrant Officer John McDougall made the request for the flag-raising a few weeks ago through the military chain of command at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

McDougall, who is a company sergeant-major in a field medical unit, said he was surprised when his request was quickly granted.

He said times have changed since he joined the army as a private 23 years ago.

“This is a huge turnaround from what used to be. When I first joined, I would never even consider telling anyone that I was gay. It just wasn’t macho,” he said.

“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.”

The Pride flag, a symbol for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, is to be flown near the base headquarters building for one week to coincide with Edmonton’s Pride festival.

Lt. (Navy) Jessica MacDonald, a military spokeswoman, said people at the sprawling base that includes infantry and armoured units have been supportive.

There has been no backlash, she said.

“The flag-raising is really a symbol to all members of the GLBT community, whether they are civilian or serving members, that the Canadian Forces promotes principles of inclusiveness, equality and dignity.”

The ceremony is to include base commander Lt.-Col. John Reissenstein, soldiers, civilians from the GLBT community and their supporters.

McDougall, 47, said he will be there with his partner of 18 years.

After years of putting his life on the line in faraway places such as Bosnia, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, being recognized and respected for who he is will be important, he said.

“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.”