07/13/2015 08:48 EDT | Updated 07/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Gay pride flag flies at Abbotsford city hall for 1st time

For the first time ever, the rainbow pride flag was hoisted today at Abbotsford City Hall.

"It was actually somewhat of an emotional moment to see that happen at last," said Ray Covenant, an LGBTQ youth advocate in the Fraser Valley who helped make the request to city officials.

The occasion is particularly poignant because of Abbotsford's reputation as British Columbia's ultra-conservative "Bible Belt," said Covenant, who for that very reason had his own reservations about moving to the area three years ago.

"I was more than a little concerned. I felt like I had just slammed myself into a closet."

Covenant was pleased to find out, however, how wrong that characterization of the city was. 

"My own personal experience has been that it's actually been a very inclusive, welcoming and warm society to live in. This [flag-raising] just reinforced that for me.

"To see that show of support from city hall, from the community, is very empowering and very encouraging."

The city will fly the flag from July 13 to 20 to coincide with the Fraser Valley's third annual pride celebration, which runs from July 17 to 19 at Trethewey House.

To hear the full interview with Ray Covenant, listen to the audio labelled: Raising the Abbotsford pride flag.