British Columbia

Former Vancouver Pride chair reflects on past parades

When asked about his favourite memory of the Vancouver Pride parade, one moment stands out for Alan Herbert. The former city councillor was the first elected chair of the Vancouver Pride Society board in 1994.

Alan Herbert says the Pride parade has come a long way since its humble beginnings

Alan Herbert said the first few Pride parades had a meagre budget and attracted about 5,000 people. (CBC)

When asked about his favourite memory of the Vancouver Pride parade, one moment stands out for Alan Herbert.

The former city councillor was the first elected chair of the Vancouver Pride Society board in 1994.

Back then, he says, the parade had a meagre budget and only attracted about 5,000 people — a fraction of the hundreds of thousands it's expected to attract this weekend. 

"We were really trying to make a name and a place for the Pride society," Herbert said.

"So when we got the participation of say, the police department or the fire department or the RCMP, that was a major achievement." 

Around that time, Philip Owen became the first mayor to march in the parade from start to finish.

The moment Owen and Herbert shared after finishing the route that day and looking over as the rest of the floats came in is one Herbert says he will never forget. 

"The music was great, the weather was perfect, there were balloons everywhere and he just looked at me and said, 'Why haven't I been here before," said Herbert.

Owen came to the parade for several years after then, Herbert says. 

Police welcome

While politicians weren't a common sight in the early days of the parade, police had always had a presence there — as protectors of the participants at a time when LGBT issues were far more controversial than they are today.

But Herbert says in 1998, they became participants themselves. 

"It's allowed us to be comfortable as gay men and women," Herbert said of the police presence. 

It's why he says he disagrees with a recent request from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter for police to voluntarily withdraw its float from the upcoming Pride Parade because of concerns their participation creates an unsafe atmosphere for some communities.

"The police have always been wonderful to us. and we as gay men and women, we need the protection of the police, so we're not asking them to leave," Herbert said. 

"It's not our job to say no to anybody. We're very accepting of everyone to participate in the parade." 

Herbert says the parade, which once struggled for recognition, is now regarded as one of the biggest, family-friendly events of the Lower Mainland.