British Columbia

Police 'disappointed' Vancouver Pride Society banning uniforms from parade

Vancouver police are disappointed in a decision to ban officers in uniform from the 2018 Vancouver Pride parade.

'Our members have proudly walked in the parade alongside the community for 21 consecutive years'

Colourful costumes are an important part of Vancouver's annual Pride event. (Rhianna Schmunk/CBC)

Vancouver police say they're "disappointed" in a decision to ban officers in uniform from the 2018 Vancouver Pride parade.

Word of the decision came after parade organizers heard from members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, or LGBTQ, communities who said they felt uncomfortable with a highly visible police presence.

Today police reacted to the news that their two-decade long tradition of supporting the event was not welcome.

"We are very disappointed by the decision made by the Vancouver Pride Society to ban Vancouver Police Department members in uniform and in VPD T-shirts from the 2018 Pride Parade. Our members have proudly walked in the parade alongside the community for 21 consecutive years," said Vancouver Police Const. Jason Doucette in a statement sent to CBC by email.

He added that officers are aware that some in the LGBTQ community do not want to see officers in uniform, but said the VPD took many steps to reconcile, and will continue to work to build trust.

The Vancouver Pride Society made the decision at a September annual general meeting, but did not announce it until they'd informed community groups of the change in direction.

"Everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable to be in the parade," said Andrea Arnot, executive director of the Vancouver Pride Society.

"We never set out to ban the police from being in the parade…. It was, how could they participate in the parade in a way that made people feel safe?"

The issue has been divisive even within Gay Pride organizations.

Debate over police involvement in Pride began in 2016.

Activist group, Black Lives Matter brought Toronto's parade to a halt, in part over concerns about police participation.

They called on police to voluntarily withdraw from the event, noting that Pride was originally sparked by the infamous Stonewall riots of 1969 after police raided a New York City gay bar.

"We believe this change is a starting point for greater inclusion in LGBT communities for those who are more marginalized and we hope that this is a new tradition that continues for many years," Black Lives Matter said in a statement about the Vancouver Pride Society's decision.

The Vancouver police have marched in the Pride Parade every year since 2002. But that is about to change. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

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