The show must go on(line): Vancouver hosts virtual Pride parade amid COVID-19

Hosts Joan-E and Kendall Gender emcee the 2020 virtual Vancouver Pride Parade. Vancouver Pride Society

Normally this time of year, downtown Vancouver would be packed with hundreds of thousands of people, as the city’s Pride parade capped the end of Pride Week.

This year, COVID-19 has interfered with any mass gatherings, but as the saying goes — the show must go on.

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On Sunday, the show went on, online.

Organizers streamed the virtual parade live on Facebook, Twitch, YouTube and Telus Optic.

“Pride is both a protest and a party, as (Vancouver LGBTQ2 icon Jim Deva) would tell us if he were here, and Pride is also about honouring our roots, commemorating our wins and imagining queer possibilities in the future,” said Joan-E, one of the event’s several hosts.

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Click to play video: 'A mostly virtual Pride Week kicks off in Vancouver'
A mostly virtual Pride Week kicks off in Vancouver

Along with musical and other performances, the 2020 virtual parade featured a segment on the history of Vancouver’s Pride Parade.

The segment followed the parade’s foundation and early fight for rights through to its unveiling of the first rainbow crosswalk in Canada in 2013 and participation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2016, the first time a sitting prime minister participated in a Pride parade.

The virtual parade also touched on Vancouver Pride’s decision to exclude police from the event in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In 2017, the Vancouver Pride Society told officers they could not participate in uniform or with weapons. In 2020, all law enforcement officers were dis-invited from participating as members of their organizations.

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Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnott said the decision, which remains controversial, came after “a lot of listening.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver Pride Society brings the spirit of Pride to the digital screen'
Vancouver Pride Society brings the spirit of Pride to the digital screen

“We heard from elders in the community who worked really hard way back in the day to have police come on board and be part of the parade. We listened to queer and trans police officers, where Pride is really important for them to show up as themselves in a work setting,” she told virtual parade viewers.

“We also heard from marginalized voices who don’t feel safe around police and don’t want them to be a part of the pride parade because that’s the one day everyone should feel safe.”

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Along with Sunday’s online parade, virtual pride 2020 included an app with playlists, resources, artist bios and events schedule.

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The festival also featured a physical distance-friendly art walk, with six large-scale art pieces by two-spirit, trans and queer artists across the downtown core.

Sunday’s virtual parade runs from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

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