SPRINGDALE, N.L. — As much as he was impressed to see the leaders of the Indian River High’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) stand up for inclusion in Springdale, it was their maturity and temperament in the face of scrutiny that impressed Scott Simms the most.
Friday, June 8 the MP for Coast of Bays-Central-Notre Dame presented Maria Lawlor, Claudia Lilly and Megan Paddock with Canada 150 Sesquicentennial pins.
In April, the school’s GSA made a request to the town council in Springdale to paint a rainbow crosswalk near the school. It was denied. Mayor Dave Edison said at the time there was concern it might divide the town, rather than promote inclusion.
It set off a chain of events that put Springdale in the national spotlight. Council and people of the town came under widespread scrutiny for the decision as well as the online comments and media reports that followed. The students at Indian River High continued to raise awareness and educate people on inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. While disappointed the crosswalk never did get painted, the GSA continued to work with council on other ways to promote inclusion.
Each Member of Parliament received special Canada 150 pins made from the copper of the roof of the Parliament of Canada to be awarded in whatever way he or she decides.
Simms says inclusion is an important issue for him, but he said he awarded the pins because of the promising futures he believes these three young women have. Despite the no they received from the municipal government on the crosswalk request, to continue to work with council and promote inclusion in the community was significant, according to the MP.
“It is not so much about the issue itself, it is about the temperament and maturity these young women displayed through the whole thing,” he said. “They were patient, they were mature, and as a result they were visionaries. I think they will go a long way (in life) no matter what they do.
“…They also showed more seasoned politicians like myself that things can be done with a great deal of patience.”
The recent Pride Week celebration in Springdale was unique to the area and showed leadership, according to Simms.
“It is community engagement that has never really happened much in central Newfoundland, but it is something that we recognize, when it comes to the issue of equality and celebrating those who are different than ourselves,” he said. “I thought it was a celebration of youth, a celebration of who we are as human beings, and also advances our understanding of others.”
Presenting the pins June 8 on the final day of Pride Week was something as important and meaningful to Simms as he hoped it was to the girls.
Lilly, Paddock, and Lawlor acknowledged the pins were an honour to receive, and validation that the stand they took was not just worthwhile, but was done so in a meaningful manner.
“It was definitely a big surprise, and I don’t think I have really wrapped my head around how big of an award it is,” Paddock said. “It is very gratifying to see how far we have come from the beginning of everything.”
The students have learned the value of standing up for themselves and others.
“It shows that standing up for what you believe in is something you should do,” Lawlor said.
“If there is something important to you, you should show people how much it matters,” Lilly added.
Lawlor also said this recognition was significant because it shows it does not matter about age, that your beliefs and actions as a youth can make a difference.
Pride Week was held in Springdale from June 4-8, and several activities and events were planned throughout the week. The young women were encouraged by the attendance at those events and the amount of support they received from the community. They say they believe everything they did over the last couple of months has made a difference in Springdale and surrounding area.
The pins they received will be a physical symbol of that difference, a nice keepsake with the memories of these times that they believe will last a lifetime.
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