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.

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