The leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party says banning police and military personnel from Edmonton’s Pride Parade is regrettable and should be reconsidered.
“The military has made great efforts to be inclusive in this respect and there’s a lot of proud gay and lesbian soldiers and police officers,” Jason Kenney said at an event in Calgary Monday. “They deserve to be able to celebrate their service to our communities and to Canada without being attacked and marginalized.”
Edmonton’s Pride Parade ground to a halt for about half an hour on Saturday when demonstrators, who were upset that police officers were allowed to march in the event, blocked its route.
The protesters demanded police, RCMP and military members be banned from marching in future parades.
The Edmonton Pride Festival Society said that it agreed to the demands and neither police nor military members will march in the parade until all community members feel safe with their presence.
“We have committed to moving forward with working with community members willing and able to meet with us to have these difficult conversations,” the society said in a statement.
“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. They did so respectfully and peacefully despite the effort and emotional labour that it required of them. Should we have a similar situation in the future, we hope that we are able to come to a positive resolution as we were able to this Pride Festival.”
The group of demonstrators — which did not affiliate itself with any one organization — described itself as “a number of queer and trans people of colour and their allies.”
“It’s unfortunate that they let a tiny group, a fringe group, kind of hijack that agenda. I think it should be about inclusivity and respect for all Canadians, especially those who serve in the uniform,” said Kenney.
“It’s regrettable that any organization would attack those who serve in the uniform of the police or military who risk their lives to defend the rest of us every day. The police and military deserve our highest respect and I would hope they would reconsider that.”
A decision to allow police officers to march, but not in uniform, followed meetings between the society, Edmonton police and RCMP that were initiated after police vehicles were restricted from participating in the 2017 parade.
Officers were given the OK to take part in the parade this year, but in T-shirts instead of their uniforms.
Watch below: Demonstration briefly stalls Edmonton Pride Parade
The society explained at the time that in many communities, police enforcement agencies were seen to make marginalized people feel unsafe.
Mayor Don Iveson said Monday he’s pleased with the fact that Pride organizers and members of the EPS, RCMP and military are ready to sit down to find a solution.
“It’s important to remember that Pride started as a protest and so that’s always been part of the spirit of the event. I think we have to be open to hearing different perspectives, particularly from folks who still do not feel safe in our city,” he said.
“I think it’s going in the right direction. I’m confident that over time we’ll get there.”
Last month, organizers of the event rejected the United Conservative Party application to march in the parade, saying Kenney’s conservatives didn’t meet criteria that includes connecting with the Pride community and sharing its policies and values.
Kenney attended a United Conservative Party Pride pancake breakfast near the parade route instead.
In a statement, Alberta RCMP said:
“We are disappointed at the decision of Edmonton Pride to exclude the RCMP from celebrations in the immediate future. We look forward to opportunities for conversations with Edmonton Pride to address concerns of some of their constituents.
“We are proud of our many LGBTQ+ employees, and welcome opportunities to demonstrate that the RCMP is an organization that values diversity.
“The Alberta RCMP is an inclusive organization of Canadians working to keep all of our citizens safe. Our members, civilian members and public service employees work hard every day to protect the rights of all members of society, and we will continue to celebrate diversity, wherever we are welcome.”
LISTEN: Harrison Fleming of LGBTory Canada joins Danielle Smith to discuss the pride parade protests
Edmonton police released this statement on Monday:
“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.”
Jon Dziadyk is an Edmonton city councillor as well as a reservist for the Canadian Forces.
“I proudly marched in this year’s Pride Parade and I came to the defence of my colleagues who are in the military who were not allowed to present themselves in a military uniform,” Dziadyk said on Monday.
“I realized that myself as a city councillor, if I was wearing a different set of clothing that day — such as my military uniform — I would not be welcome there and that just seemed going against where I thought we were with Pride.”
Dziadyk said meetings have already been scheduled between the groups impacted and he intends on being part of the discussion.
“One thing a lot of people don’t realize about members in uniform is it’s a different style of life. They choose to serve their country. Police choose to serve their city. It’s very much a part of their identity, just like their sexual orientation is also part of their identity. It can exist that they want to express both at the same time and I’d be supportive of that.”
— with files from Emily Mertz, Global News