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College Hill shows support for LGBTQ athletes in Sochi

There’s a new flag flying high on College Hill.

UNB, along with St. Thomas University, Mount Allison University and l’Université de Moncton, raised pride flags last week in support of LGBTQ athletes competing at the Olympic games in Sochi.

UNB president Eddy Campbell said he got a letter from John Staples, vice president of Spectrum – UNB and STU’s LGBTQ student group – asking the flag be raised just like other provincial and municipal governments across Canada have done.

For Campbell, it was a no-brainer.

“What’s happening in Russia, from our point of view, it’s hard to believe what’s being said and what laws are being passed,” Campbell said. “For me it goes back to a letter the Brunswickan published, where one of our instructors, who happened to be gay, said something along the lines of ‘I just want to be left alone to live my life.’ ”

He said that letter put the struggles facing the LBGTQ communities everywhere into perspective.

“That really resonated with me in the sense that for heterosexual people, that’s not even a question. Of course you’re left alone to live your life,” Campbell said. “But if you’re a member of the LGBT community, life is not so simple or so straightforward. Look at what’s happening in Russia.”

In the letter, addressed to Campbell and STU president Dawn Russell, Staples wrote that the gesture was a “move of support for the rights and safety” of LGBTQ athletes.

Earlier last week Fredericton mayor Brad Woodside tweeted the pride flag would fly outside City Hall, and by Friday the provincial government also raised one outside of the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly.

LA Henry, co-vice president of Fredericton’s Pride Committee, said while the gesture by the various social institutions across Canada signifies a level of social awareness that wasn’t always there, it doesn’t solve the challenges surrounding LGBTQ issues on home soil.

“There’s still a lot of bullying and a lot of people that feel the need to be closeted,” Henry said, adding it’s also important for Canadians to not take for granted the gains that have been made for LBGTQ rights.

“Especially where there’s some deep-rooted prejudices that still exist that if the landscape were to change at the legislative level then all of that stuff would probably rise to the surface again,” Henry said.

Other schools across the country have also raised pride flags, including the University of Calgary, MacEwan University in Edmonton and George Brown College in Toronto. UNB’s pride flag will come down after Sunday’s closing ceremonies.

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