Duelling Pride pa­rade pe­ti­tions launched

Lat­est ef­fort wants of­fi­cers wel­comed

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - David P. Ball

A new on­line pe­ti­tion is call­ing for Van­cou­ver Pride So­ci­ety to in­clude the city’s po­lice depart­ment and RCMP in its an­nual cel­e­bra­tion of LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ties.

The push comes on the heels of an­other pe­ti­tion push­ing the so­ci­ety in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, call­ing po­lice “an in­stru­ment of state vi­o­lence and op­pres­sion” that the Pride move­ment was formed to protest against in 1969.

“Van­cou­ver’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity has a long his­tory of pos­i­tive en­gage­ment with the Van­cou­ver Po­lice Depart­ment,” ar­gued the Feb. 12 pe­ti­tion, launched by sev­eral LGBTQ com­mu­nity stal­warts and vet­er­ans, which gar­nered 1,258 sig­na­to­ries as of Tues­day mid­day.

One of that pe­ti­tion’s cre­ators was trans­gen­der ac­tivist Vel­vet Steele, who told Metro she be­lieves Pride can re­main both a cel­e­bra­tion and a protest — as long as there’s re­spect be­tween op­pos­ing view­points.

“It’s im­por­tant to keep ev­ery­body in­cluded in the ne­go­ti­at­ing process,” she said in a phone in­ter­view, “not to close the door in peo­ple’s faces.

Con­tro­versy last sum­mer over whether Van­cou­ver Pride Pa­rade should in­clude po­lice floats and ve­hi­cles has re-ig­nited in the cold of win­ter, with the an­nual festival’s plan­ners set to con­sider de­mands from Black Lives Mat­ter Van­cou­ver later this month.

“Pride pa­rade will not be a safe space for many Black peo­ple and peo­ple of colour un­til (po­lice) are re­moved from the pa­rade,” stated BLM’s Feb. 7 pe­ti­tion, which had 679 sig­na­tures by Tues­day mid­day. Metro was un­able to reach Black Lives Mat­ter Van­cou­ver or­ga­niz­ers be­fore dead­line.

Van­cou­ver po­lice spokesman Sgt. Randy Fin­cham said the force will “un­less re­quested oth­er­wise, have our vol­un­teers and civil­ian and sworn staff walk with pride for our 21st year in the 2017 Van­cou­ver Pride Pa­rade, to show sup­port for the en­tire LGBTQ2+ com­mu­nity,” he said in an email.

With BLM ex­pected to meet Pride So­ci­ety di­rec­tors on Feb. 21, an­other of the pro-po­lice pe­ti­tion’s cre­ators said LGBTQ com­mu­nity vet­er­ans felt they needed to counter a “one-sided con­ver­sa­tion” and show sup­port for the VPD’s out­reach and in­clu­sion ef­forts.

Kevin Dale McKe­own, Van­cou­ver’s first out gay jour­nal­ist who was the Ge­or­gia Straight’s gay colum­nist in the 1970s, said he “can’t speak to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the black com­mu­nity in Van­cou­ver and the po­lice,” but said that while he ac­knowl­edged “this is a big and se­ri­ous is­sue that’s not just his­toric but on­go­ing,” boot­ing one group out over an­other was not the way to ad­dress it.

“Our hope is that the Pride So­ci­ety will, af­ter due con­sid­er­a­tion, de­cide our re­la­tion­ship with the VPD and the RCMP is such that we do wel­come them in our pa­rade,” he said. “I hope that the Pride di­rec­tors are able to find a pos­i­tive way to en­gage.”

Dar­ryl Dyck/the cana­Dian press

Con­tro­versy sparked by Black Lives Mat­ter over VPD’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Pride pa­rade has resur­faced. The lat­est pe­ti­tion wants po­lice wel­comed.

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