Two flag-raising ceremonies took place in Portage la Prairie on Wednesday to help celebrate Pride Month.

Portage Mayor Sharilyn Knox and City Councillor Preston Meier were joined by Jake Matheson, a resident of Portage for seven years, to raise a pride flag and proclaim June Pride Month in the city.

file photoJake Matheson and Sharilyn Knox.

"It means a lot," said Matheson. "It means that our community is showing its support and that Portage is an inclusive city. It's really lovely to have leaders in our community showing that they are supportive like this."

file photoJake Matheson.

Meier was the only council member on hand for the flag-raising at noon on Wednesday as every other member of the council was on a plane to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting. Meier said he was happy to attend on behalf of the rest of the council.

"I think this is an important step. Maybe it shouldn't just be one month, maybe it should be all year. But we want to make sure that people understand that we are an inclusive, welcoming community and that we certainly stand in support."

file photoCouncillor Preston Meier.

Forty-five minutes later, a second flag-raising took place at Portage Collegiate Institute (PCI).

Cullen Yeates, PCI French Immersion teacher, spoke with PortageOnline regarding the event. Yeates, who is involved with the queer-straight alliance at the school, explained just how much the flag-raising means.

file photoCullen Yeates.

"When I was in high school, I didn't really have any sort of community to join and no teachers that were openly 2SLGBTQ+. So, having a group where students can join a better and greater school community is just really heartwarming for me to see," Yeates continued. "It definitely makes me feel like I picked the right school to work at. There are some days that I still feel like I'm maybe a little bit out of place, but coming into the school every day and knowing that my coworkers are so supportive of me, and of the students as well, really makes me feel much safer here."

Lisa Tessier, PCI French Immersion and English Language Arts teacher said the flag raising was a significant reminder of how far society has come.

"By raising this flag, we reaffirm our pledge to be allies, associates and friends to those who need our support."

file photoLisa Tessier and Cullen Yeates speak to a crowd at PCI on Wednesday, June 5.

PCI Principal Lawrence McKenzie told PortageOnline after the school's flag raising that this is a meaningful step in recognizing the diversity of everyone at the school.

"This is just another way of celebrating the successes of our students and how each one is an important individual, and we need to recognize that. Everybody is a little bit different here at PCI, and we need to celebrate all their successes."

file photoPCI Principal Lawrence McKenzie.

Jeff Bereza was one of three Manitoba MLAs to give a speech at PCI regarding the flag-raising. Logan Oxenham, NDP MLA for Kirkfield Park, and Tyler Blashko, NDP MLA for Lagimodière, joined him.

Bereza told the crowd that Portage la Prairie is proud to celebrate Pride Month.

"Portage is for progress, and this is what progress is all about," shouted the Portage MLA.

Blashko thanked students and staff for being so welcoming.

"As a young queer person, I was always looking for signals for who in my life was safe, who I could talk with, and who would be there along with me on my journey. So, I carry that with me now. You have a government that's willing and wanting to walk alongside you and build a better world together."

Oxenham was given loud applause after telling everyone in attendance they were the first transgender MLA in Canada to be elected.

"I remember being a young trans kid and not having really anyone to look towards, and we just want you to know that as your government, we see you, we hear you, and we love you."

file photoLogan Oxenham, NDP MLA for Kirkfield Park, and Tyler Blashko, NDP MLA for Lagimodière.

Once the flag was raised, students marched around the school's property and parts of Portage wearing pride flags and colours.