Vancouver police ‘disheartened’ over decision to ban them from Pride events

Click to play video: 'Vancouver mayor on Pride organizers banning law enforcement from events'
Vancouver mayor on Pride organizers banning law enforcement from events
Global BC reporter Jordan Armstrong asks Mayor Kennedy Stewart at a media briefing about the decision from the Vancouver Pride parade to remove police from their events. – Jun 11, 2020

Vancouver police say they are “disheartened to hear of the decision made by the Vancouver Pride Society to ban VPD members from participating future Pride events.”

On Wednesday, the society said all law enforcement will be removed from its parade and festivals.

It also said it would also be backing calls by the Black Lives Matter movement to defund police.

In a statement, Const. Tania Visintin said VPD “members have proudly walked in the parade alongside the community for over 20 years.”

“The Vancouver police have built strong relationships with the LGBTQ2S+ community over the years. Our LGBTQ2S+ Liaison Officer works within the community to improve the safety of LGBTQ2S+ people,” she added.

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In 2016, VPD created the Safe Place program, which includes providing local businesses with window decals to help everyone feel safe in the community. The department also has Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Relations sections to help develop and implement programs to build relationships with Vancouver’s diverse communities.

“We also have numerous Vancouver Police officers that are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and take pride in taking part in Pride events each year,” Visintin said.

In 2017, the Vancouver Pride Society barred police from participating in the parade in uniform, with marked vehicles, or with weapons.

The society now says “law enforcement, including correctional officers, are not welcome to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade or exhibit at our festivals.”

“The change that needs to happen will take time and until that happens and the systemic racism within policing is dismantled this decision will carry forward,” Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnot told Global News.

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A high-profile Surrey RCMP officer is also speaking out on the issue.

Media relations officer Cpl. Elenore Sturko tweeted that as an LGBTQ2 police officer, she wears her uniform and participates in Pride events, not only to stand with the community but to stand up against discrimination. She says she’s disheartened by the decision.

Visintin said as much as they are disappointed by the decision, Vancouver police will continue to be a support to the community as best they can.

READ MORE: Vancouver mayor calls on province for comprehensive review on policing

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Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the decision made by the Pride Society made him sad when he heard it.

“I ran on on a platform of making a city that works for everybody. And what I envision is all of us marching forward together for change,” he said.

Stewart added he will do his best to try and bring the two parties together so they can move forward.

-with files from Simon Little

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