By Tamara Sestanj
Over 200 people attended a barbecue in the Jane and Runnymede area on Saturday to stand up against recent hate crimes that have been happening in the neighbourhood.
For the past two years, Ryerson instructors Pascal Murphy and Sarah Jean Harrison have been the targets of these crimes. Their home has been vandalized, their property defaced, and their car tires slashed – all because of the rainbow peace flags on display at the front of their house in support of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Queer (LGBTQ) community.
After discovering that other neighbours were also targets of these crimes, they decided that something needed to be done. In response, they organized the Neighbours United for Inclusion barbecue.
“It quickly became clear that we had to do something as a community to stop these hate crimes,” said Harrison. “[We need] to demonstrate to whoever is doing these hate crimes that this isn’t okay in our neighbourhood, that this neighbourhood is based on inclusion and respect and equality.”
The barbecue took place in the north parking lot of Runnymede Collegiate Institute. Rainbow peace flags were given to everyone who attended the event. The goal was to have people display the flags in front of their homes for at least a day to show that the crimes would not intimidate anyone.
“They took away the peace flag, and what did they say? 100 more! Let’s invite the neighbors for a barbecue!” said comedian and MC of the event, Martha Chavez to the crowd.
The barbecue was a joint effort by many members of the community. Some neighbours lent their barbecues, others handed out flyers, and local businesses donated food and a sound system for the band.
“I am amazed, but not surprised. This is such an inclusive community,” said Murphy. “This is a stronger voice. We’re demonstrating that we will not be defined by hate.”
The barbecue officially kicked off with speeches from various members of the neighborhood and LGBTQ community.
Harrison told the crowd that she felt it was important she displayed the rainbow peace flag on the front of her home because students could see it across the street at the high school.
“They know that their identity and who they are is being affirmed,” said Harrison. “They know that there are people out there who support them.”
After the speeches, there was a live musical performance by The Woodshed Orchestra. Guests enjoyed the music, ate food and socialized while young children played with bubbles and chalk.
The music and chatter could be heard down the street.
“I want my children to have a full understanding of inclusion of everyone,” said Nicole Hogg, who attended the event with her two children.
Ryerson graduate and one of Pascal’s former students, Nikki Osborne, also came out to show her support.
“I think it’s a great message to the public [about] the kind of community we want,” said Osborne. “We want an inclusive community that’s welcome to everyone.”