When Bruce Smith and his partner Jim Deva moved to Vancouver from Calgary together about 40 years ago, they heard about the inaugural Vancouver Pride parade being held. Unfortunately, they had trouble finding it and missed it.
In its second year, they also missed it because it ended before they got there.
In its third year, he said they finally found it and joined the march from Nelson Park to Thurlow Street along Beach Avenue.
At that time, he said people walked with paper bags over their heads as onlookers booed, hissed, and spat at them.
"I'm sure glad we live in a city that's not like that anymore," Smith said at the 2016 Vancouver Pride Week launch.
In previous years, the launch was held at Vancouver City Hall, but this year, on July 25, it was held at the newly completed West End plaza named after Smith's partner of over 40 years.
Drag queen host Joan-E, who MCed the event, said no one could bring together people, despite disagreement and conflict, like the late local LGBT pioneer and Little Sister's Book and Art Emporium cofounder Jim Deva.
"I can't let this day pass without thinking of the legacy of Jim Deva and one of the many, many parts that formed his legacy of why a place like this exists, one of the greatest pieces of his legacy was his ability to bring people together to resolve conflict, to build bridges and community," she said. "When we look at our relationship not only with our city, with the fire department, with the businesses that are around here in the Davie Village, or with the Vancouver Police Department, I think we always have to raise our hearts and our glasses to the late Jim Deva."
Vancouver Pride Society president Alan Jernigan called Deva "a true activist and a champion for us all".
"To see his name on this community gathering place in the heart of Davie Village is a reminder of the support our city gives to people who take action for what they believe in," he said.
Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke about how this year's Pride theme, Better Together, is also reflected in the plaza.
"This plaza is really a living proof of a more inclusive community space that will continue to bring Jim's mission, and I think that shared vision of all of us here today, bringing people together here in the heart of the Davie Village," he said.
Joan-E also talked about how Pride Week is a symbol of "Vancouverites' support for diversity and inclusion in our city".
"I'm proud to live in a city where members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, two-spirit, and queer community can celebrate openly, and well over 650,000 citizens who come out to show their support during Pride," she said.
She acknowledged that during this "troubling time throughout the world", it is reassuring to have support from local politicians.
"It is so wonderful, and I feel so much better knowing that there are so many leaders, not only in our community but throughout the city and province that join with us and think that Pride is such an important part of our city."
Robertson talked about how the City of Vancouver is committed to LGBT progress as a means to inspire other communities around the world. As an example, he mentioned how Vancouver city council voted to approve a trans equality plan on July 13.
"Regrettably, our progress here sometimes stands in sharp contrast to events and government actions in other cities and in other countries, which is why Vancouver city council will continue to vocally, very vocally, support LGBTQ rights and equality. We will continue to speak out and speak up so that all citizens here enjoy those rights, gain those rights where they're needed and that cities around the world hear our call to pick up the pace and do what's right," he said.
Mayor Robertson read out the official Pride Week proclamation, and Coun. Tim Stevenson noted that the Pride rainbow flag and the trans flag were both raised at Vancouver City Hall on July 25.
The official opening of the Jim Deva Plaza will take place on Thursday (July 28) will start at 4:30 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 7 p.m.