Literacy Alberni in Port Alberni displays a “Pride Ally” sticker on their door. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Literacy Alberni in Port Alberni displays a “Pride Ally” sticker on their door. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Alberni Valley Pride hosts ally training program for businesses

Goal is to create safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ2+ community

Alberni Valley Pride has started a new initiative to help local businesses become a safe and inclusive space for the LGBTQ2+ community in Port Alberni.

Pride president Carrie Thorpe says the AV Pride Ally Program is a continuation of the “Pride Up Your Place” initiative that was started during last year’s Pride Week. The program provides some education and training to local businesses so that they can promote themselves as a safe and inclusive space.

Alberni Valley Pride received a grant from Fierté Canada Pride and partnered with ADAPS Youth and Family Services to build the training program. Thorpe says she also reached out to some local LGBTQ2+ youth and the peer support group Alberni Valley Trans Folks and Friends to help with the training.

“To get some thoughts about what they wanted to see behind it,” she explained.

The program consists of a one-and-a-half hour training session through Zoom, followed by a one-on-one meeting with members of Alberni Valley Pride.

“Just to go over any questions,” said Thorpe.

The training goes over topics like gender identity and sexual orientation, how to use gender-inclusive language and how to be an effective ally for the LGBTQ2+ community.

At the end of the training, businesses receive a sticker they can display in their space. Artwork for the sticker was designed by Nuu-chah-nulth artist Geena Haiyupis. The sticker includes rainbow colours and an image of a thunderbird.

“Our Indigenous people have an oral history where the person could wear the suit of the thunderbird when they needed to feed or protect [their] community,” said Haiyupis in an artist statement. “As an artist, I see our society starting to normalize space for our people to take that suit off and feel safe now. It is my dream to create an open environment for everyone to feel safe and embrace a sense of belonging.”

Ultimately, Thorpe says the goal of the program is to provide more inclusive and safe spaces for LGBTQ2+ people in Port Alberni.

The society has run three training sessions so far, with the most recent one taking place on March 21, 2022. So far, eight organizations and businesses are designated as safe spaces for the LGBTQ2+ community in Port Alberni. The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District is also in the process of having all its staff trained with the program.

Thorpe says Alberni Valley Pride is hoping to host one training session per month. Those who are interested in taking part can email albernivalleypride@gmail.com.

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