An Alberta RCMP spokesperson said the organization hopes that Saturday’s brief protest during the Edmonton Pride parade will open a dialogue to improve the relationship between police and the LGBTQ community.
“We were at the parade yesterday to celebrate the diversity within the RCMP among our employees, as well as to celebrate the diversity of the LGBTQ2S+ community in Edmonton, and to show our support as strong allies and many of us as members of that community ourselves,” Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry said Sunday.
“Unfortunately, it is disappointing that certain individuals feel unsafe,” said Landry. “As police, we want everyone to feel safe in our presence.”
The parade through Old Strathcona was halted for about 20 minutes when a group of demonstrators blocked the route and presented demands to the Pride Society, including disinviting RCMP, Edmonton Police Service and military members from participating.
The group — which did not affiliate itself with any one organization — described itself as “a number of queer and trans people of colour and their allies.”
Alexix Hillyard, spokesperson for the group, told Global News that the issues with military and police had been brought up to the Edmonton Pride Society, and that those requests were ignored not once but twice.
“Our friends, our family and ourselves have been harmed… have been killed by police,” one protester said through a megaphone. “We talked about the fact that we can’t feel safe, we can’t enjoy Pride knowing police are here.”
“The Edmonton Pride Festival Society is in agreement with each of the demands presented,” the Edmonton Pride Society said in a news release shared later Saturday afternoon.
“EPS, RCMP and military will not march in the parade until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence.”
On Monday, the society elaborated.
“This is not about individuals who exist within those organizations. Organizations are made up of people but it’s important to remember that when an organization is asked to step aside, change behaviour, or do anything, we are not asking that of each of the individuals within. We are asking the people in power of that organization to effect change.
“EPFS is about supporting all members of the community, including those who happen to be employed by the police or military. This is about the systemic racism and oppression that people within our community face from those organizations.”
The society also thanked the demonstrators for raising their concerns respectfully and peacefully.
“Pride was born from protest against police oppression and to ignore that is to ignore an important part of our history. Some community members stood up and made sure their voices were heard.”
It’s a decision that Landry said the RCMP respects, but added they want to work closely with all groups involved.
“I think it’s very important that we look at this as an opportunity for improvement, rather than looking at this as a hurdle or a step backward,” Landry said. “The door has now been opened hopefully for some good, strong dialogue.”
In a statement released Monday, Edmonton police said:
“While the June 9 decision to exclude the Edmonton Police Service from marching in the Pride Parade is difficult to understand and disappointing, we nonetheless will fully accept this decision.”
A spokesperson for the department of National Defense said they wouldn’t comment on the specific parade decision but reiterated “the strength of Canada’s defence team comes from the diversity of its people,” Jessica Lamirande said in a statement.
“Diversity and inclusion are core values and the respect and dignity of all individuals is paramount. They drive operational effectiveness and institutional cohesiveness.
”Women and men in uniform of all backgrounds will continue to be important and valued members of the defence community.”
With files from Emily Mertz.