More groups choose to sit out Vancouver's pride parade

Queer groups are joining Vancouver's Black Lives Matter movement in not marching in Vancouver's pride parade, instead organizing their own alternate march.

Some queer groups are not marching in the parade to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter Vancouver

Marchers carry an oversized rainbow flag down Robson Street during the Vancouver Pride Parade in August 2014. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

While the theme of Vancouver's Pride Week this year is "better together," some groups are expressing their frustration by remaining separate.

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter Vancouver's protest of the Vancouver pride parade for including a police float, queer Muslim group Salaam and queer South Asian group Trikone are also sitting out this year's pride parade.

Cicely-Belle Blain, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Vancouver chapter, said many queer people of colour feel excluded from the mainstream queer community. She said the request isn't an attack on Vancouver police or the Pride Parade specifically, but a matter of solidarity.

"It's not about black people versus gay people," she said. "We are living in the intersection of being black and queer, and we want the mainstream queer communities to accept us and listen to what we have to say, and part of that is it makes us very uncomfortable to have the police inside the parade."

Cicely-Belle Blain, co-founder of Vancouver's Black Lives Matter chapter, says many queer people of colour feel marginalized by the mainstream queer community. (Tristan le Rudulier/CBC)

"I think this is a very important moment for Pride Society and other queer communities in Vancouver to really think about the ways in which they include people of colour," she said.

In an open letter posted on its website on July 15, BLMV said it wanted the Vancouver police department to voluntarily withdraw from the parade, saying that officer involvement makes some communities feel unsafe.

After receiving no response from the Vancouver Pride Society, BLMV said it would "not be taking part in the Pride parade, by participation or protest, and have instead chosen to focus our energy elsewhere."

Its request came after Black Lives Matter Toronto blocked the Toronto Pride Parade and made the same demand.

'Pride is not talking to us'

Imtiaz Popat says his Muslim queer group, Salaam, does not feel safe marching in this year's parade. (CBC)

Imtiaz Popat, coordinator of the Muslim queer group Salaam, said his group does not feel safe marching in the parade this year due to racist backlash in the wake of the Orlando shooting and the interruption of the Toronto Pride Parade.

"We decided that because of the racist backlash that we need to have our own march," he said. "We need to have our own space where we do feel safe."

"Pride is not talking to us. The city is not talking to us."

That march, the Two-Spirit Queers, Trans, Intersexed and Bisexual People of Colour Pride March, will be happening on Monday, the day after the main pride parade.

'VPD will still have a presence at the parade this year'

Alan Jernigan, president of the Vancouver Pride Society, said while BLMV made a reasonable point, the VPD will "still have a presence at the parade this year."

"I think there's a way to find room for the police to be in the parade as strong allies of the community as they are," Jernigan said. "But [we] still understand that the issue that Black Lives Matter is raising is a legitimate issue."

Alan Jernigan, president of the Vancouver Pride Society, says Vancouver police will still have a presence at the parade this year. (Don Marce/CBC)

But Jernigan said the Pride Society was able to honour one request from BLMV: Vancouver police will not be bringing an armoured truck as part of its float.

As for groups like Popat's choosing to sit out this year's pride parade, Jernigan said the parade's visibility and high public profile are its biggest assets.

"We lend that visibility to other groups who participate in the parade so that their causes can be visible to the greater community," Jernigan said.

"If [sitting out] is one way that Black Lives Matter can make their cause more visible, then that's something that we can support."

Mayor Gregor Robertson briefly alluded to the theme and the controversy during his opening remarks commemorating Pride Week and the new Jim Deva Plaza in the heart of Davie Village today.

"Working together towards inclusivity and safety, and providing space for marginalized and racialized queer communities here in Vancouver, and solidarity between the communities is truly what we need," Robertson said.

Alternate parades

The 38th annual Vancouver Pride Parade will take place from 12 to 3 p.m. PT on Sunday, July 31, starting at Robson and Bute, but there are a few alternative parades.

Black Lives Matter accepted the invitation to march as the Grand Marshal with the 13th annual Dyke March on Saturday, July 30, starting in McSpadden Park at 11 a.m.

The Two-Spirit Queers, Trans, Intersexed and Bisexual People of Colour Pride March, which Popat is involved in organizing, will start at 1 p.m. on Monday, August 1 with a gathering at Victory Square.

With files from Belle Puri, Pierre Martineau and CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.