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Interim NDP leader honours Layton at Vancouver Pride

People dance on a float as it passes by during the annual Vancouver Pride Parade in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia, Sunday, July 31, 2011.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail/Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

The Pride Parade was a coming-out, politically speaking, for Nycole Turmel on Sunday, as she appeared at her first public event as interim NDP leader.

Ms. Turmel was appointed just last week by the federal NDP council, shortly after Jack Layton stepped down to focus his energy on battling cancer.

She said it was a good to start her duties at Vancouver's Pride Parade, because Mr. Layton had always attended in the past and would have been there again had he been able.

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"That's my first event … celebrating the love, the respect of all the people here today," she said to a flamboyant, celebratory crowd that danced in the sunshine and cheered all the speeches, no matter how mundane.

"It's so nice … it's about love," said Ms. Turmel, who appeared on a small stage at Sunset Beach between sets that featured hip hop artists, singers, comedians and dancers in drag.

"Jack is thanking you, [he sends]all his love, all his respect and he says as well, thank you to all of you for the messages received. It's really nice; it's really good for him," she said.

Ms. Turmel, Liberal MP Hedy Fry and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May all told the gathering that they will unite this fall to bring back to the House a transgender rights bill that NDP MP Bill Siksay had tried to get passed last year.

Mr. Siksay, who didn't run in the last federal election, saw his legislation go through the House, only to stall in the Senate. His proposal would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

"I told him I would bring it back.… the legislation is exactly as Bill wrote it and it's a tribute to him," said Ms. Fry.

The political speeches came after thousands of members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - and their supporters - paraded through the streets of Vancouver in what has become one of the city's touchstone events of the summer.

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Provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu and other officials joined the parade, which featured "dykes on bikes," "two spirited aboriginals," seniors waving flags, the VPD marching band and dozens of commercial floats.

"It turned out to be such a nice day to be gay," said Pride Parade host Berend MacKenzie, as he welcomed the crowd to Sunset Beach.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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