Vancouver police can march in the Pride parade, but not in uniform, society says

Click to play video: 'Vancouver police won’t wear uniforms in next year’s Pride Parade'
Vancouver police won’t wear uniforms in next year’s Pride Parade
Vancouver Police officers taking part in next year’s Pride Parade will not be wearing their uniforms. Nadia Stewart has the details on this controversial issue – Dec 1, 2017

The Vancouver Pride Society has finally settled a longstanding debate, only to face a new and even more daunting challenge.

After more than a year of consultation, the society announced Thursday that Vancouver police are welcome in the annual Pride parade, but not in uniform.

Coverage of the Vancouver Pride Parade on

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“We are asking police to participate in the parade,” Andrea Arnot, Vancouver Pride Society Executive Director said.

“Just not in uniform, with no marked vehicles and no weapons.”

Reaction has been swift.

Tom Stamatakis with the police union called the move “ridiculous,” saying it’s “the opposite of inclusion and undermines a lot of relationship building over many years. Not to mention catering to a group that seemingly does not even exist at the moment.”

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter Vancouver holds march, voices opposition to police marching in Pride parade

Arnot said the decision goes beyond concerns raised by Black Lives Matter activists last summer. She said Pride has spoken with many others, who point to negative encounters with police in the past.

“There are groups of people within that queer umbrella… who really feel triggered or traumatized by the uniform, the symbol of oppression that they faced in the past or perhaps in the present,” Arnot said.

“It’s been a long involved process and we feel like our decision wasn’t made just on a whim.”

On Friday morning, Vancouver police said they were “disappointment” to find out the decision.

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In a statement, officials say they’ve been involved wearing both uniforms and VPD t-shirts, and have marched proudly alongside the community for 21 consecutive years.

VPD says it had no input in the final decision, but understands there are people in the LGBTQ2S community who don’t want to see officials in uniform.

Vancouver Police say they’ll continue to work on an ongoing basis to build trust.

In response, Arnot said the VPD did have input into the decision, saying the meeting held on Sept. 21 to discuss the decision reached by the board was “attended by three VPS representatives, including Executive Director Andrea Arnot and Co-Chair Michelle Fortin.”

Three representatives from the VPD were also present, including Superintendent Marcie Flamand and LGBT liaison Officer Dale Quiring. We were told the development would be communicated back to the rest of their team.

“On this same day, the VPS contacted the Mayor’s office to let them know the decision reached.”

“It is unfortunate if members of the VPD were taken by surprise by the decision due to a communication breakdown within their organization. We took every step to ensure they learned of the decision from us, and were given the impression that the decision was understood.”

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But the Vancouver Pride Society could be facing even greater challenges.

Arnot told Global News that they’re running a deficit, the result of big bills from the City of Vancouver.

“Policing is a huge cost,” Arnot says. “It’s also things like re-routing buses and sanitation.”

Steinbach’s first Pride Parade kicks off Saturday.
Steinbach’s first Pride Parade kicks off Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Take the last two years, for example.

The Vancouver Pride society said the bill in 2016 was originally $125,000 — about four times what they were initially quoted.

That amount was reduced to $50,000 following negotiations with the city.

However, the bill for 2017 remains unpaid at $68,000.

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Arnot said Pride parades elsewhere in Canada don’t face hefty city and policing bills like the ones in Vancouver.

Organizers are now trying to find ways to save money, but the deficit could mean that Pride festivities are significantly scaled down next year.

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