Po­lice at Pride

Dis­cus­sions un­der­way about whether cops should re­turn to an­nual pa­rade, af­ter vol­un­tar­ily step­ping away last sum­mer.

The Coast - - VOICE OF THE CITY - BY MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE

Last sum­mer, lo­cal po­lice in uni­form stepped away from the an­nual Hal­i­fax Pride pa­rade.

More re­cently, of­fi­cials from Hal­i­fax Pride and Hal­i­fax Re­gional Po­lice have been in talks re­gard­ing po­lice po­ten­tially re­join­ing this year’s event.

Po­lice spokesper­son Carol McIsaac says over email that dis­cus­sions have been on­go­ing for months, but no de­ci­sion has been made about uni­formed of­fi­cers re­turn­ing to Pride.

“Re­gard­less of what is de­cided,” says McIsaac, “our goal is to en­sure that fur­ther im­pact­ful con­tri­bu­tions by HRP are made that will build and main­tain con­fi­dence, trust and safety with the [LGBTQ+] com­mu­nity.”

Adam Reid, Hal­i­fax Pride’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, says “Hal­i­fax Pride con­tin­ues to meet with and lis­ten to our com­mu­nity and stake­hold­ers,” in­clud­ing po­lice.

“HRP’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in this year’s fes­ti­val will be guided by those con­ver­sa­tions,” he tells The Coast in an email.

Years ago, when uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cers here joined pa­rade marchers, Hal­i­fax’s po­lice depart­ment and Pride or­ga­niz­ers of the day viewed that in­au­gu­ral step as sig­nif­i­cant, and said so pub­licly. Prior to that, po­lice pro­vided se­cu­rity and traf­fic con­trol for the event. But times have changed.

Po­lice here vol­un­tar­ily bowed out of the Hal­i­fax pa­rade last year—though of­fi­cers were still al­lowed to join in plain clothes—af­ter Pride or­ga­niz­ers in Toronto ear­lier had an­nounced they’d ban uni­formed of­fi­cers and po­lice floats from their city’s pro­ces­sion.

The move fol­lowed de­mands by Toronto’s Black Lives Mat­ter group, which had ac­cused po­lice of tar­get­ing Black res­i­dents.

Hal­i­fax chief Jean-Michel Blais told re­porters last Fe­bru­ary there was a na­tional de­bate go­ing on about the par­tic­i­pa­tion of po­lice in Pride pa­rades, and that “step­ping away tem­po­rar­ily from the pa­rade will best sup­port the [LGBTQ+] com­mu­nity to help al­low for mean­ing­ful dis­cus­sion of the is­sue.”

Last year, Blais took part in a ses­sion at a na­tional con­fer­ence in Hal­i­fax of Pride or­ga­ni­za­tions. The meet­ing, which cov­ered po­lice and Pride, heard him urge Canada’s po­lice chiefs to com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­larly with se­nior Pride of­fi­cials to col­lect com­ments or con­cerns.

The 2018 Pride fes­ti­val in Hal­i­fax runs July 19 to 29. The pa­rade is set for July 21.

HRP

Po­lice tak­ing part in the 2014 Pride pa­rade.

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