Nunavut at NWT Pride: Interviews with The Jerry Cans and Scary Bear


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The annual NWT Pride Festival is happening this weekend in the City of Yellowknife, and there to perform are two band that were formed in Nunavut: The Jerry Cans, who are from Iqaluit, and Scary Bear Soundtrack, who were formed in Cambridge Bay.

The Jerry Cans are currently on their cross-Canada-and-into-Alaska Decolonize Tour (check out my guide to attending a Jerry Cans show to learn more about the tour), and Scary Bear Soundtrack is in the process of releasing their newest album, Ovayok Road and were finalists in the CBC Searchlight competition this year. I contacted Andrew Morrison of The Jerry Cans and Gloria Song of Scary Bear Soundtrack to get their thoughts on NWT Pride and LGBTQ issues in the North, but first...

What about Pride in Nunavut?

While Nunavut does not have an official Pride Parade or Festival, there are LGBTQ groups, events, and movements going on around the territory. Check out the links and resources below to get a sense of the who, what, where, and how of being gay in the territory.

Iqalummiut show their support for gays and lesbians: This Nunatsiaq article from 2005 gives us a glimpse of what Iqaluit Pride was like a decade ago, when its annual Pride Picnic would draw crowds of up to 200 people that included cabinet ministers and the mayor at the time, Elisapee Shetutiapik. A contingent from Iqaluit Pride also marched in that year's Toronto Pride Parade.

Iqaluit Raises a Rainbow Flag: My blog post about the raising of a rainbow flag over Iqaluit City Hall during the Sochi Olympics.

Gay in Nunavut: discovering a new language: An incredible piece of writing from Nunatsiaq News' Lisa Gregoire about the negative reaction to the raising of the rainbow flag, the presence/absence/acceptance of homosexuality in Inuit culture, and a glimpse into the lives of gay Nunavummiut. I strongly urge you to read this piece.

Pride Party Fills to Capacity in Iqaluit, Nunavut: Written by Scary Bear Soundtrack's Gloria Song for Xtra!, this article includes quotes and stories from people who have been involved with LGBTQ groups in Nunavut over the decades. Another fantastic primer on Pride in the territory, and one that I have re-read many times.

Iqaluit Pride: The Facebook page for Iqaluit's current Pride community. Iqaluit Pride has organized several events in the last year, including a Pride Party and Gay Prom. Check out their page to find out how you can get involved, or to read stories from people in the community.

NWT Pride Interviews

And now for the interviews with The Jerry Cans and Scary Bear Soundtrack. I sent both bands the same set of four questions. Here are their answers.

How did you get involved with NWT Pride?

The Jerry Cans: We were asked a few years ago to play Pride and we were super excited about the invitation but weren't able to make it because of schedule stuff. We have tried to make it every year since and finally this year it worked out!

Scary Bear Soundtrack: It has always been a source of fascination for me that a city of Yellowknife's size has such an active and exciting Pride every year, so we wanted to take part in it!

What does Pride mean to you?

JC: Pride to me means being proud of who you are - whoever you are. People face so much pressure these days to be this way or that way or to love this way or that way and it can totally take its toll, especially for young people.

SBS: This year's theme for NWT Pride is "Free to Be," and it's about everyone's right to be who they want to be and love without judgment. It's an opportunity for people who have felt like they are different for their whole lives to appreciate the fact that...it's more than okay, it's something to celebrate!

Do you have any songs that you think would resonate especially with an LGBTQ audience?

JC: "Alianait" is the best song for Pride because the lyrics tell young people that they are totally capable of anything. (Ed: "Alianait" was debuted right here on Finding True North - visit this link!)

SBS: Yes! A song off our last album, "Stacked Cards" is about recognizing that with my cisgender privilege, I may not understand exactly how it feels to be transgender and experience discrimination on that account, but it is no reason to stop me from wanting to support my friends and let them know I've got their back. "If we all feel alone, let's do it all together!"

(Ed: I also featured one of Scary Bear Soundtrack's songs in my Valentine's Day article, a ditty called "Nothing Bad." Gloria says the song is about "how people might have very good reasons for staying in the closet too, and that's okay, I'll still hang out with you inside.")

What has been your experience with LGBTQ issues/community in the North?

SBS: I can only speak to my experience in the northern community that I lived in, but some of my queer friends were open and others were not, all for their own reasons. Sometimes it was because they were worried about social repercussions from family and friends, others because they were worried about how it might affect their professional life, and for others it seemed like a moot point because they were in heterosexual relationships. Everyone has their own reasons for doing what they do, and it should be respected.

While at times there have been homophobic comments and situations, I think it's important to recognize that some of my openly gay friends had very positive experiences coming out and living openly in the community. I am especially proud of the community because of the Rainbow Day that the [Cambridge Bay] high school holds every year to raise awareness about homophobia, and to discuss LGBTQ issues with students. I really want to congratulate the teachers who have been taking that initiative. I'm not saying there haven't been hurtful experiences here; but there has been so many encouraging things happening in the North that I am very hopeful.

Extra special thanks to Andrew and Gloria for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer my questions! If you have any comments on NWT Pride or the articles about being LGBTQ in Nunavut, send us a tweet!