Vancouver Pride Parade arrives amid controversy over UBC, VPL exclusions
The Vancouver Pride Society is in the final stages of preparing for Sunday’s massive Vancouver Pride Parade, but organizers are facing sustained criticism over the decision to bar some high-profile institutions.
The society announced in July it was uninviting the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Vancouver Public Library (VPL) after they hosted speakers who have been called “transphobic” and “hateful.”
Speaking ahead of the parade, which is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Vancouver, Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Michelle Fortin said all parties have agreed to move forward.
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“We first heard the concerns over these speakers from staff themselves, at both UBC and VPL, saying, ‘What are you going to do about this?'” Fortin said.
“Both UBC and VPL have agreed to look at their booking policies to ensure they’re creating safe spaces for transgender and marginalized people, which is all we really wanted. We’re just focused now on putting on a great parade.”
At the time of both announcements, Pride organizers said they weren’t barring individuals from marching in the parade, but the organizations would not be allowed to take part as a group.
But the decision still prompted David Cavey, the Conservative Party candidate for Vancouver-Centre in the upcoming federal election, to announce on Monday he would be withdrawing his own participation, citing free speech concerns.
A statement from his campaign said Cavey “made the decision after sending a private request to Pride organizers to lift the ban on both respected public institutions. He received no reply.”
That has sparked a war of words between the candidate and the Pride Society, after the latter sent out a statement saying it didn’t know about his concerns until his announcement.
“We found out through a press release because they didn’t bother to contact any of our board or staff directly,” the statement reads.
“We don’t have time to be dealing with political candidates trying to score points off the backs of our work. In the wise words of Ariana Grande, thank u, next.”
Cavey shot back Friday, arguing he used the general feedback form on the society’s website on July 24 to voice his concerns and ask for UBC and VPL to be reinstated.
He further charged the society “didn’t care” enough to respond.
“In typical Pride Society fashion, they decided to shut out those they disagree with rather than be inclusive — ironic,” Cavety’s campaign said in another statement. “The Vancouver Pride Society receives $1 million of your tax dollars. They need to grow up.”
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Fortin maintained the society didn’t hear from Cavey beforehand, and that his withdrawal has simply opened up space for others to take part.
“We had a number of calls saying, ‘Oh, does this mean there’s a spot open in the parade?'” she said. “So we have no problem in replacing that particular entry.”
UBC received blowback from the LGBTQ2 community for hosting Jenn Smith — who describes himself as a “transgender-identified male” and writes and speaks on “the dangers” of “transgender ideology” — at an event in June.
Two other B.C. post-secondary institutions, Douglas College and Trinity Western University, both cancelled talks by Smith earlier this year.
The VPL was also criticized for allowing an event hosted by self-described radical feminist speaker Meghan Murphy back in January.
On Saturday, Cavey said barring both institutions from an event based on inclusion is hypocritical and goes against Canada’s free speech laws.
“UBC has a long history, VPL has a long history, I have a long history, we all support the LGBT community,” he said. “The Pride Society preaches inclusion, and they are excluding public institutions for just simply doing their job.”
The Pride Society faced similar criticisms last year, when it decided members of the Vancouver Police Department could only march in their parade without their uniforms.
The condition remains in place for this year’s parade.
Fortin said organizers’ recent decisions are all meant to ensure members of the LGBTQ2 community feel like their voices are being heard when they feel mistreated or unsafe.
“We’re representing and reflecting the community, and so this is all meant to make people think differently about giving people who are preaching intolerance a voice,” she said.
“Human rights says trans folks are people. Bill C-16 [the Gender Identity Bill that provides human rights protections for transgender and gender diverse people] was passed three years ago. This shouldn’t be up for debate.”
— With files from Simon Little and Jennifer Palma
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