British Columbia

No more police at Vancouver Pride as organizers join call to defund VPD

All law enforcement will now be completely barred from Vancouver's Pride parade and other events associated with the annual LGBT celebration.

'The roots of Pride are in righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality,' organizers say

The Vancouver Pride Society says law enforcement will be banned from all Pride celebrations. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

All law enforcement will now be completely barred from Vancouver's Pride parade and other events associated with the annual LGBT celebration.

Organizers with the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) announced the change Wednesday, saying they will also amplify calls from Black Lives Matter to defund police.

"We stand with Black communities who have taken to the streets to demand accountability from the police," the VPS said in an online statement.

"The roots of Pride are in righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality. These riots against the violence of the police were led by Black and Brown trans women and queer people."

The statement invokes the 1969 Stonewall riots against police actions in New York City, which led to the world's first Pride marches a year later.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's Pride festival will be held virtually, and the VPS is asking in its online submission the city not include any police.

But the organizers acknowledge that traditional, in-person events require police to be hired for a permit to be issued in Vancouver. VPS says it is looking at options for challenging that system.

Executive director Andrea Arnot told CBC the decision to bar police and correctional officers will be reviewed annually, "but I believe this will be ongoing — even next year when we hopefully move back to real-life events."

Police reform hasn't worked, pride society says

Police uniforms have been barred from the Pride parade since 2018 in response to concerns from Black Lives Matter Vancouver and other members of the community who suggested a visible police presence made them feel unsafe.

Some LGBT police officers in Metro Vancouver are already expressing their disappointment with the latest development, including Surrey RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Elenore Sturko, who wrote in a tweet that she's "disheartened" by the news.

Since the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis, there have been growing calls across North America to defund police forces.

Black Lives Matter Vancouver has written an open letter to the city calling for police funding to be redirected to services including "child care support, education, comprehensive mental health intervention and social support, local restorative justice services, employment programs, access to recreational facilities, community-directed public investment, peer-based programming, culturally-led policies and more."

In its online statement, VPS says that previous attempts at police reform "have not worked. Period. It is time to invest in alternative ways to manage public safety."

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