Pride organizers should strive for inclusivity
No good will come of this. Police departments in Halifax and Toronto have announced they will withdraw from Pride Parades in their respective cities.
They are not stepping back because they want to.
Rather, they are withdrawing because segments of the GLBTQ communities in those cities don’t want them there. In Toronto, that segment is dominated by Black Lives Matter. In Halifax, it’s less clear, in fact Halifax Pride hasn’t said specifically what the concerns are that led to discussions that culminated with Chief Jean-Michel Blais announcing police would not take part officially, though some may march out of uniform. In both cases, police voluntarily withdrew to avoid inflaming conflicts within the GLBTQ and communities at large.
Individuals and groups unhappy and fearful of police have legitimate reasons in many cases. Carding and other questionable procedures, along with systemic biases and in some cases prejudices, have caused injury and suffering in many minority communities, GLTBQ notably among them. Many polices services across Canada have acknowledged that and are working to improve practices and change cultures.
But it’s one thing for individuals and the organizations that represent them to cry foul, to advocate, protest and demand change. It is another for those organizations to make policy decisions that essentially exclude a part of the community. The irony of Pride Organizers themselves making exclusionary decisions when members of the GLBTQ community have suffered from exclusion themselves shouldn’t be lost.
True, in both these cases organizers didn’t out-and-out ban police from taking part. In Toronto, organizers accepted a BLM ultimatum that would have banned all police floats from the parade. In Halifax the withdrawal came after lengthy discussions and negotiations. But the bottom line is that an identifiable police presence wasn’t welcome in either parade.
That sentiment may be understandable to a point, but it is still wrong and ultimately unwise. Exclusion is never a sound strategy, except in extreme cases. If police are indeed a part of the problem, as they are by their own acknowledgment, how do policies of systemic exclusion help? If anything, the very public shunning of a police presence creates more distance, and possibly animosity where none existed before.
In fairness, these exclusions don’t mean police and GLBTQ communities in either city have given up talking and working together to try and make things better. Those things are happening, at least to a point, in Toronto, Halifax, Hamilton and most other major Canadian cities.
But this was an opportunity to display unity and tolerance rather than exclusion. Sadly, an opportunity missed.