Gay UCP staffer condemns Calgary Pride decision to deny party's parade application

Cody Johnston, who was attacked online in June for announcing he would attend the Edmonton Pride parade, says he's not happy with Calgary Pride's decision to deny the newly formed conservative party's application to march this year.

Cody Johnston was attacked by some Wildrose members in June for saying he would attend Edmonton Pride

The Calgary Pride Parade in 2015. Organizers denied the application of the newly formed UCP, citing a lack of policies around LGTBQ rights. (Pride Calgary)

A gay United Conservative Party staffer who was attacked online for saying he would attend the Edmonton Pride parade says he's not happy with Calgary Pride's decision to deny the newly formed conservative party's application to march this year. 

"I find it a little ironic that at the same time we're acting in a way and demanding respect and are calling for it, we won't allow our politicians and the people who are gay and are conservative to actually march and show their support, their tolerance and their acceptance for our community," said Cody Johnston, who spoke to CBC News at the Hope to Hate rally in Edmonton on Saturday night.

'What kind of crap is this'

Johnston, who worked for the Wildrose Party prior to the merger of Alberta's conservative parties, received abuse from some Wildrose members in June after posting that he would attend Edmonton's Pride celebrations.

"What kind of crap is this that you're mailing out in the name of the Wildrose party," wrote one critic in a comment made public by Johnston in June. 

"This party does not support this kind of lifestyle and we certainly don't promote it."

Another wrote: "The intent of these events (is) to promote a sinful lifestyle. Do not give viewers the impression that this is Wildrose approved."

Lack of policy

Calgary Pride denied the UCP's application to march in this year's parade, citing a lack of policy. 

"As your organization does not yet have clear policy in support of the gender and sexually diverse community, we would like to encourage a collaborative learning opportunity, prior to participating as parade entries," reads a statement released by the organization. 

Johnston said he doesn't agree with Calgary Pride's stance. 

"Some of us find this absolutely unnecessary. There are strong advocates within our party for human rights," he said.

"It's not just myself, I don't stand alone. There's many of us — our caucus, I don't speak for them at all, but I know many of them do as well, and they have been vocal opponents to any type of hate."

Individuals welcome

Jason Kingsley, president and executive producer of Calgary Pride, said no one from the organization was available for an interview on Sunday, but offered a written response by email.

He said the fact the UCP won't be allowed to march this year does not mean individuals can't participate.

"Calgary Pride has not been in communication with Cody Johnston, and we have not informed them that they are not allowed to march in the Pride Parade as a member of the community," he wrote.  

"We encourage Cody to participate and represent the gender and sexually diverse community. Individuals who wish to represent the newly formed United Conservative Party are asked to respect the political entry application process and criteria that have been in place for the last three years."

With files from The Canadian Press and Zoe Todd