Ambassadors of foreign countries are not necessarily the people you would expect to see in a Pride Parade, but the Canadian Ambassador to Iceland, Stewart Wheeler has marched in the Reykjavík Pride for the last two years with his partner Brian Armstrong, and they will be marching again this year.

On top of that Stewart will take part in a panel discussion about the message of the Canadian film Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride. He says it is important to celebrate what has been achieved in the fight for queer rights but at the same time keep fighting for the rights of those that still live under oppression around the world.

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Stewart Wheeler, the Canadian Ambassador to Iceland.

“In the last decade Canada has more than ever made it a priority to make human rights and LGBT rights a bigger issue internationally. We‘ve been very strident about human rights and persecutions of minority groups around the world and our foreign minister has been speaking out a lot in international organisations against repression of minority groups.

It is my belief that those of us that are fortunate enough to live in places where we have gained certain rights have an obligation to speak out for those who are oppressed. We should be holding the oppressors to account and defending and promoting human rights and human dignity as much as we can.

So being here in Iceland as an openly gay ambassador it seems perfectly logical to me that the Embassy, and me and my partner personally, should take part actively in Pride. I‘m of course doing this in the name of Canada as part of that global effort to promote human rights but it is very gratifying to be able to do it as a person too and say that not only is Canada proud to be here but my partner and I are proud to be here. Someone told us that we were the first openly gay ambassadorial couple ever in Iceland and I think it is an important step to be visible as such.“

On how it came about that he and his partner, Brian Armstrong, took part in the Reykjavík Pride Parade two years ago Stewart says that Hillary Clinton had a part in that – indirectly.

“I saw pictures of a previous Parade and was very impressed to see that the United States Embassy took part. They had a banner that said that the United States supported the Reykjavík Pride and a quote from Hillary Clinton saying “Gay rights are human rights“. Even though I was impressed by that there were two things that struck me. First of all, it was excellent to see that the US Ambassador led the group, but you could not tell that the ambassador was actually walking unless you recognised him, and I think it is a political statement from a country that the ambassador himself is walking in the Pride Parade.

Stewart and Brian at the Faroese Flag Day reception, in Reykjavík.

Stewart and Brian at the Faroese Flag Day reception in Reykjavík.

The other thing that struck me was that the message was in English. There are tens of thousands of people watching this – mostly Icelanders — and even though most Icelanders speak English it didn‘t feel right to not be addressing them in their own language.

So we decided our banner would say, in Icelandic: “Sendiherra Kanada og maðurinn hans eru stoltir þátttakendur í Gleðigöngunni“ (e. “The Canadian Embassador to Iceland and his partner are proud to take part in the Pride Parade“). Some people thought that made the banner all about me, but it was not about me, it was about the fact that there is a gay ambassador and that he is happy to make a point of it. It‘s a sort of the embodiment of the pride that we are supposed to be celebrating.“

“I missed the gay community though…So I organised the first gay diplomatic network in Afghanistan.“

This year Stewart will not only march in the parade but also be one of the participants in a panel discussion about the purpose of pride parades. “I wanted to do more and I decided to invite a Canadian filmmaker to Pride. It was in cooperation with other Canadian Embassies in the Nordic countries that we decided to invite filmmaker Bob Christie and show his film Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride. He has already been to the Stockholm and Helsinki prides to show his film and discuss it‘s content. Bob is a great guy and loves engaging with the audience.

Politics of Pride.

Beoynd Gay: The Politics of Pride will be shown at Iðnó, on Tuesday August 4 at 5PM. The film and the discussion afterwards are free events.

He made this film in 2009 on the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of Pride in Vancouver and I think the debate that took place there then sounds a bit like the debate that is starting to happen in Reykjavík: What‘s the real role of the pride now that we have come to the point where we have most of the rights we were fighting for?“

Speaking of queer rights, have you ever encountered hindrances for being gay in the foreign service?

“When I started in the foreign service 1994 the government of Canada had not officially recognised gay partners but I think that inside the foreign service there was already a lot of tolerance and acceptance. Before that time I remember hearing stories from the seventies and eighties that gay people could lose their security clearance and it was important to stay in the closet if you did not want to lose your job. In the nineties things moved fairly quickly in Canada.

There was no problem for me going to my first posting in Washington and bringing my partner with me, except he was not going to be recognised by the ministry. But within a year, the Canadian government started their first steps towards recognition of partnerships and the first thing they did was to extend the recognition of partnerships for public employees. Within a few years gay marriage was legalised in Canada and it all moved very quickly and almost overnight everything was changed.“

But you have been stationed in lot of different countries, where they all as open-minded?

“I think people in diplomacy internationally are very open-minded and tolerant, you can‘t go to another country and be judgemental about everything you see so you must have a certain openness. We were posted in Colombia where Brian was given full recognition as a diplomatic spouse. Colombia is of course a very Catholic country and you don‘t see gay people walking down the street holding hands, but there were gay restaurants, gay bars and an active gay community, so we never encountered any problems.

"A small group from the Embassy were visiting various sites around Kabul and stopped to talk to the kids from the local neighbourhood who were playing there. We are wearing bullet-proof vests which we often needed to wear outside the protected embassy or government compounds. on a promiment hill in Kabul where the old national swimming pool is (which was drained of water and used as an execution site during the years of Taliban rule).

“A small group from the Embassy were visiting various sites around Kabul and stopped to talk to the kids from the local neighbourhood who were playing there. We were wearing bullet-proof vests which we often needed to wear outside the protected embassy or government compounds,” says Stewart, here pictured on a prominent hill in Kabul where the old national swimming pool is (the pool was drained of water and used as an execution site during the years of Taliban rule).

Then we were posted to London and there it is of course considered a normal thing to be gay.

Then I went to Afghanistan but because of the security situation there no one goes with their family. We all went alone and lived in a compound together where we were protected by the military so it was in no way a normal situation.

Inside the embassy there was no problem and I think most of my Afghan colleagues inside the embassy knew that I was gay, they just didn‘t want to talk about it and I respected that. There we were not going out to bars or restaurants, it was not allowed, so I never ran into any difficulties.

I missed the gay community though and after a few months I thought to myself; this is crazy, this is the first time I‘ve ever been in a post where I don‘t have a gay network that I can get together with, even just to have an evening where we can relax and just be ourselves.

So I organised the first gay diplomatic network in Afghanistan. It was fun and became a very close and energetic group, everybody was working so hard that we needed to have this outlet where you could meet friends, not having to worry about the conflict and just relax.“

“I‘ve lived in London and Washington where there are definitely gay ghettos but I think it‘s probably the function of tolerance and acceptance in the society that neither Reykjavík nor Ottawa has a big gay scene…“

Last week Stewart learned that his time in Iceland has been prolonged for another year and he is really happy about that.

CanadianPride flag at Canadian residence in Reykjavik.

Canadian Pride flag at The Canadian residence in Reykjavik.

“Yes, we are very excited about that. We have been here since October 2012 and normally these posts last for three years but now we will be staying until the summer of 2016 and we feel very honoured and grateful for that.“

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the lack of a gay scene in Iceland, what do you think of that?

“I used to say that about Ottawa too and in a way we have to be happy about that. I‘ve lived in London and Washington where there are definitely gay ghettos but I think it‘s probably the function of tolerance and acceptance in the society that neither Reykjavík nor Ottawa has a big gay scene, it‘s because gays are everywhere and it‘s quite normal and nobody cares. So in a way we have to be very happy and proud about that. You see it in the Reykjavík Pride Parade where everybody‘s mothers and sisters and brothers and children take part, and that has to be a sign of achievement.

But at the same time I think it also should serve as a source of strength and courage and solidarity for us, and help us to not forget the fact that just because we have achieved certain things – and I‘m not saying we have achieved everything, just look at the way transgender people are dealt with both here and in Canada and everywhere – there are so many places in the world where people have no where near the acceptance and rights that we have. There is a lot of work to be done yet. Of course we should celebrate our achievements and be very proud but we should also use that energy to keep working on these unfinished things, whether it‘s at home or abroad.“

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“…everybody’s mothers and sisters and brothers and children take part, and that has to be an achievement,” says Stewart.

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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        Ísey skyr
        - once tasted never forgotten

        Our Story
        Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

        For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

        Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
        This is our secret and you are in on it

        You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

        Núðluskálin
        - noodle bar

        Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

        All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
        We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
        Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

        Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

        Seatours
        - adventure cruise

        Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
        and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

        The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

        600x400-seatours-tasting

        This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

        600x400-seatours

        The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

        Birds, possible to spot:
        -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
        -eider ducks
        -shags
        -kittiwakes
        -fulmars
        -white-tailed eagle

        The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
        Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

        Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

        Contact Us


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