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RCMP, military want 'more dialogue' after being banned from future Edmonton Pride parades

The decision by the Edmonton Pride Festival Society to ban police and military members from walking in future Pride parades drew mixed reactions on Sunday.

'A blanket exclusion without knowing everything isn't the way to go,' soldier says

About a dozen people protested police and military participation in the Edmonton Pride Parade Saturday. 1:13

The decision by the Edmonton Pride Festival Society to ban police and military members from walking in future parades drew mixed reactions Sunday.

Members of the Edmonton Police Service, RCMP and military participated in Saturday's Pride parade.

About a dozen people protested their presence and brought the parade to a halt for about half an hour after it began.

Protesters on Whyte Avenue, near 104th Street, asked the society to uninvite police and military members, acknowledge the event's historical roots as a protest against police oppression and include more trans people and people of colour on its board and staff.

One of the protestors' demands was for the Edmonton Pride Festival Society to include more trans people and people of colour on its board and staff. (CBC)

The society agreed to all of the protesters' demands and said in a statement it will not allow EPS, RCMP and members of the military to march in the parade "until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence."

Agnieszka Kucharska, a media liaison for the protesters, said she was pleased with the society's response.

"It's really good and a relief to have the opportunity to be finally heard and validated," she told CBC News Sunday.

'More dialogue needs to happen': RCMP

About a dozen protesters brought the Edmonton pride parade to a halt on Saturday. The Edmonton Pride Festival Society agreed to the protesters' demands, which included banning RCMP, military and Edmonton police from walking in future parades. (Chris Martin/CBC)

Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry with the RCMP's K division said the RCMP respects the society's decision.

"Obviously, it's our goal that all individuals feel safe with our presence," he said.

Approximately 40 people — including police officers, civilian staff, friends and family — participated in the RCMP's Pride parade contingent.

Landry said their participation reflects a desire to celebrate diversity within the RCMP and the community.

RCMP members agreed to march out of uniform as a "proactive step" to try and make people feel safe, he said.

"More dialogue needs to happen," he said.

The RCMP is committed to meeting with people who have concerns about police attending the annual parade, he added.

'Marginalizing a marginalized group'

The protest held up Saturday's parade for about half an hour. (Chris Martin/CBC)

John McDougall, a soldier and member of the Edmonton Police Commission, said he was gutted to hear about the decision.

He was on a plane in New York while the protest was happening, but watched with interest on social media because he organized the approximately 10 military members who signed up to march together.

The decision to ban military members from the parade amounts to "marginalizing a marginalized group," McDougall said.

He added he was disappointed the society made a "snap decision" instead of taking a year to discuss the issue, between parades.

"A blanket exclusion without knowing everything isn't the way to go," he said.

McDougall has worked in the military for three decades, advocating for LGBT issues.

"Now I have to go back to work and say to people, 'Thank you for being brave and coming forward, thank you for standing up to represent the LGBTQ+ community at Pride, but now you can't go,' " he said.

Once back in Canada, McDougall said he plans to volunteer to be a military liaison for the society and participate in conversations about future military participation.

Pride marchers weigh in

The society's decision drew strong reactions on social media, and from people who walked in the parade.

Ward 3 Coun. Jon Dziadyk, who is also a member of the military, said he was frustrated by the protest because it seemed to "fly in the face of inclusivity."

Derek Jagodzinsky said police should be able to walk in Edmonton's pride parade in uniform. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

Fashion designer Derek Jagodzinsky thought the decision was "kind of ridiculous" and said police should be able to march in uniform at the parade.

"If somebody was trying to shoot people or beat up somebody, who's going to protect them?" Jagodzinsky said.

KoKo Carlson said people in the queer community have been talking about problems with police for a long time.

"The broader part of the community doesn't see those problems for various reasons — white privilege being the main one," Carlson said. "Those voices haven't been listened to and they had to do what they had to do to get heard."

KoKo Carlson, who walked in Edmonton's pride parade on Saturday, supports the decision to ban police from the parade. (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

The society's board of directors has committed to hosting a series of community consultations on the topic. A community stakeholders meeting is scheduled for June 25.

About the Author

Madeleine Cummings

Journalist

Madeleine Cummings is a journalist and associate producer with CBC Edmonton.

With files from Héloise Rodriguez-Qizilbash