British Columbia

Longtime Vancouver LGBT activists speak up for police presence at Pride parade

Pioneering members of Vancouver's LGBT activist community have presented a petition in support of police participation in the Pride parade, countering one presented by Black Lives Matter earlier this month.

The group's petition is countering one presented by the Vancouver branch of Black Lives Matter

The Vancouver police have marched in the Pride Parade every year since 2002. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Pioneering members of Vancouver's LGBT activist community have presented a petition in support of police participation in the Pride parade, countering one presented by Black Lives Matter earlier this month.

It raises concerns that removing Vancouver police from the parade would renege on decades of relationship-building undertaken by the force and the city's LGBT community. 

"Vancouver's LGBTQ community has a long history of positive engagement with the Vancouver Police Department, from the first Gay and Lesbian / Police Liaison Committee in 1977 [...] and continuing today as the LGBT / Police Liaison Committee. We've been doing this work for 40 years now," it reads in part.

Black Lives Matter Vancouver first asked Vancouver police to voluntarily withdraw from the Pride parade last July — a request that was reiterated this month. 

The "Our Pride Includes Police" petition was brought forward by some of Vancouver's most seasoned LGBT activists, including Gordon Hardy, a co-founder of the Vancouver Gay Liberation Front, and Sandy-Leo Laframboise, a trans activist and Métis elder.

The Vancouver branch of Black Lives Matter has launched a petition asking the Vancouver Pride Society to remove the police from the 2017 Pride Parade. (Black Lives Matter Vancouver/Facebook)

Velvet Steele, an organizer of the petition who has worked with the Vancouver police's LGBT liaison officer, said she is concerned that removing police from the parade would be counter productive.

"I think we've come a long way, and we still have a long way to go. We want police working in our communities, being sensitised to our communities. We want to continue that bridge building," she said.

Vancouver Police have participated in the Pride parade since 2002. 

'I don't want to close the door'

Steele said that while she understands Black Lives Matter's desire to stand in solidarity with marginalized groups, she is concerned about drawing comparisons between the Vancouver police and other law enforcement institutions. 

"Our history here in Vancouver is very different, and we have a long history of working with police, which we don't have in other cities in North America, especially in the U.S.," she said.

Steele said that given her own history with police, reconciling with the force has been a "challenging process."

"Given what I've gone through with different types of assault and how the police handled it, getting people to open their minds and listen was an important process and a long, hard step," she said. 

"I don't want to close the door. I want to keep the door open and keep working on it."

Steele said her group hopes to engage in an open dialogue with Black Lives Matter and the Vancouver Pride Society. 

Kieran Burgess, the executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society, has said that his organization's approach will differ from that of Pride Toronto, which has voted to ban uniformed officers from its event.

Vancouver's 2017 Pride Parade will take place on August 6th. 

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