Pro-life float at Alberta town’s Canada Day parade generates surprised reaction

A photo of a Red Deer Pro-Life parade float in Olds, Alta., on July 1, 2022. Supplied to Global News

Hundreds of people lined the streets in Olds, Alta., on Friday to watch the Canada Day parade, something they haven’t been able to do since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

For the most part, they were treated to the usual parade fodder: fire trucks, Mounties and various entries by local sports teams and community groups.

But one float in particular caught some spectators by surprise.

The float displayed the message “let the beat go on” and was entered by Red Deer Pro-Life.

While it did carry a pro-life message, the float didn’t display any graphic images.

One resident, whom Global News has agreed not to name, questioned the appropriateness of the float — and the subject matter — at a family-friendly event.

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Another resident spoke to Global News about the float as well. Jody Hegel has lived in Olds for the past five years and attended the parade with her husband and their four-year-old daughter. She said she was surprised to see the float in the parade.

“Just because of everything happening in the (United) States with Roe v. Wade, I was like, ‘Oh that’s interesting,'” Hagel said.

The Olds parade came after a float in Sundre was the centre of controversy last weekend. It was heavily criticized for its depiction — and disrespect of — the Sikh culture.

READ MORE: Controversial float in Sundre, Alta. rodeo parade causes outrage

Premier Jason Kenney was asked about parades becoming more political at a Canada Day celebration in Calgary.

“Well that’s up to the parade organizers to set the criteria,” he said. “I would say that obviously what happened last week was gross. It was mocking a particular faith community, and that doesn’t have a place in any kind of parade.”

Kenney went on to talk about the pro-life group’s float.

“I think that falls well within freedom of speech in a free society for people to express their deeply held views about the value of human life,” the premier said. “I don’t think that’s analogous at all to mocking people and expressing hatred for a particular religious community.

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“I wouldn’t draw a connection between those two things.”

Hagel said while she was surprised by the float’s appearance, she also saw it as a freedom of speech issue.

“I feel like it’s a platform for people to share their opinions, and people can take it or leave it,” she said.

Global News reached out to the Town of Olds to ask about criteria for entries into the parade.

Red Deer Pro-Life was also contacted.

If the town or pro-life group respond, this article will be updated with comment from them.

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