Saskatoon mayor Charlie Clark says he understands criticism about having a straight, white man be grand marshal of this coming weekend's Pride parade, but says the intended message is about support and inclusion.
"By being grand marshal, what I want to do is send that message that as mayor [and council] we support you," he said. "And when I was asked to join as grand marshal, that was the intention."
A group of LGBT and two-spirit people organized a separate, "real" Pride march in Saskatoon a week ago, partly because they opposed the selection of Clark as grand marshal.
Lynn Thompson, one of the organizers of that march, has said the selection of a white, straight male and a politician as grand marshal was "a little bit inappropriate and too premature."
Clark told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, "I grew up with all the privileges of a straight, white male — that's absolutely true.
"I understand the concern 'Does that make this about me?' or 'Am I trying to draw political attention to myself?' and that is absolutely not the intent. There's a line that you walk in a role like this where I'm not trying to take over and make this about me; I want to make it about the community."
He said decided to carry on in the role because he had support to do so by others in the LGBT community and intends to walk "as an ally and not to try and put myself out in front of the parade."
Pride festival approached Clark
Saskatoon Pride Festival co-chair Danny Papadatos said it was the festival's board of directors that went to Clark with the proposal.
"We came to him and said, 'We believe that this is the time that our city and the community gets to see that support from civic leaders,'" he said.
Papadatos said he remembers growing up in Saskatoon and feeling like "I couldn't be myself here."
He said: "I often think in particular about the young people growing up here who are trying to find out 'Is this a city that I can live in? Is this a city that will support me to be who I am in our community?'"
After 25 years of Pride in Saskatoon, he said it was time to "show our community we're moving forward together and the city is behind us." He added they knew not everyone would be happy with the decision to ask Clark to be grand marshal.
Papadatos said Clark's presence at the march, even if he wasn't grand marshal, was a given.
"He was going to be in the parade whether we asked him or not," he said with a laugh.
"That's something that he feels is important."
Saskatoon's Pride parade is Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m. CST under the University Bridge at Spadina Crescent. It winds its way through downtown.