A member of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet will lead a contingent of more than 50 members of the staff of the Canadian Embassy on Saturday in D.C.’s annual Capital Pride Parade.
The participation in the parade by Amarjeet Sohi, Canada’s Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and a longtime human rights advocate, represents the first known time a high-level official from another country has participated in D.C. LGBT Pride festivities.
As many as 350,000 people from the D.C. metropolitan area and the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as other regions of the U.S. and Canada, are expected to participate in the 41st Annual Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and the annual Capital Pride Festival on Sunday.
“We are a large destination Pride event,” said Capital Pride Executive Director Ryan Bos. “People travel from all over to attend.”
In recent years the parade and festival have served as the culmination of a month of LGBT Pride-related events in the nation’s capital, including Black Pride, Trans Pride, Youth Pride and Latino Pride.
Sunday’s Pride festival, which takes place on Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol and in front of the Canadian Embassy, has become D.C.’s largest LGBT community event of the year. More than 200 booths representing LGBT organizations and LGBT-friendly groups and businesses, including corporate sponsors and local and federal government agencies, will be present at this year’s festival, according to Bos.
Among the federal government agencies that have reserved booth space at the festival are the Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA, each of which were set to be represented by members of officially recognized LGBT employee groups of those agencies.
Although the White House isn’t participating in the parade or festival, as he has in previous years, President Barack Obama submitted an official letter of recognition, which is published in the Pride Guide, Capital Pride’s official publication.
“Welcome to the 2016 Celebration of Pride in our Nation’s Capital,” Obama wrote in his letter. “Courageous lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans have long harnessed hope in the face of intolerance to pursue progress – standing up, speaking out, coming out, and sharing their stories,” he wrote.
Bos said more than 180 contingents, including floats, were scheduled to ride or march in the parade, which is scheduled to kick off at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at 21st and P Streets, N.W.
Emmy Award-winning actor and comedian Leslie Jordan is serving this year as the parade’s grand marshal. Jordan will perform two shows Friday night at Studio Theatre, sponsored by the Washington Blade; visit washingtonblade.com/leslie for details. The Washington Capitals hockey team and the Washington Nationals baseball team will have contingents in the parade.
The Capitals released a statement on Tuesday announcing the team’s star goaltender Braden Holtby will be part of the Capitals’ contingent marching in the parade.
“I am honored to represent the Capitals and participate in this important event that shines light on the contributions the LGBT community makes every day,” the statement quotes Holtby as saying. “I believe in equality for all people and I look forward to showing my support along with our organization and fans.”
The statement says the Capitals contingent also will include the Capitals’ mascot Slapshot, Red Rockers, Washington Wizards’ Wizard Girls, Washington Mystics Energy Squad, and Monumental Sports and Entertainment staff members in conjunction with the LGBT supportive sports group You Can Play Project.
In addition to the Canadian Embassy, contingents from the British Embassy, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, and the embassies of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Iceland were scheduled to march in the parade, Capital Pride officials said. The contingents from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway will be led by their respective ambassadors to the U.S., according to Capital Pride President Bernie Delia.
Sohi, the Canadian minister, is also a member of the Canadian Parliament from Edmonton, where he has been known as a champion for the rights of minorities and an advocate for multiculturalism, said Christine Constantine, a spokesperson for the Canadian Embassy.
“We have so far 55 embassy staff signed up,” she said of the embassy parade contingent, which will be led by Minister Sohi and his wife. “We expect many more will join us.”
Constantine said that in recognition of D.C. Capital Pride events, the Canadian Embassy will fly a rainbow flag outside of its building from Wednesday, June 8 to Wednesday June 15. She said during that same seven-day period the embassy will illuminate with rainbow colored lighting during evening hours its Rotunda Pillars, a group of vertical columns that represent Canada’s provinces and territories.
Also marching in the Capital Pride parade will be D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson and fellow Council members Anita Bonds, Jack Evans, David Grosso, Kenyan McDuffie and Vincent Orange, according to information released by Capital Pride.
Gay at-large Council candidate David Garber and at-large Council candidate Robert White, who are challenging Orange in the city’s June 14 Democratic primary, were also listed as having signed up to march in the parade.
As in previous years, the parade will travel along P Street to Dupont Circle, where it winds around the circle to New Hampshire Avenue and heads to R Street, where it will turn right on 17th Street. With thousands of spectators expected to stand on the sidewalks along 17th Street, where several gay bars and restaurants are located, the parade will travel along 17th Street and turn left on P Street.
From there it will travel east along P Street past a parade viewing gathering between 16th and 15th Streets until it reaches 14th Street, where it turns left and travels north to its end point at 14th and S Street.
Among the numerous D.C.-area churches participating in the parade will be the Washington National Cathedral.