United Conservative Party application rejected by Calgary Pride parade

Without clear policy supporting the LGBTQ community, members of the newly formed United Conservative Party won’t be permitted to take part in this year’s Calgary Pride parade.

Pride officials says ban is result of UCP not having policy supporting members of the LGBTQ community

Members of the United Conservative Party are being asked to complete a three-hour workshop before being allowed to march in the Calgary Pride parade. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

Without clear policy supporting the LGBTQ community, members of the newly formed United Conservative Party won't be permitted to take part in this year's Calgary Pride parade.

Instead, UCP members are being asked to first complete a three-hour workshop hosted by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre aimed at increasing "the comfort and skill of professionals to talk about sexual health, relationships, gender and sexual diversity," according to a letter sent to party members.

"In the application process, we ask political entries to provide information on how they've worked with our community in the past 12 months," the letter states.

"As your organization does not yet have clear policy in support of the gender and sexually diverse community, we would like to encourage a collaborative learning opportunity, prior to participating as parade entries."

UCP members are invited to participate as spectators.

In an emailed statement, Calgary Pride president and executive producer Jason Kingsley said they look forward to building a relationship with UCP members, "and having them demonstrate their commitment to the gender and sexually diverse community through their new platform and policies over the next year and onward."

UCP communications director Samantha Johnston said the party is working with Pride officials to schedule the workshops; however, that won't be done in time for this year's event.

No one from the party was made available for interviews, but a representative of leadership hopeful Jeff Callaway said the party's lack of policy documents doesn't reflect Callaway's views. 

"Jeff has long stood up for equality for all members of the community. As Wildrose president, he actively encouraged participation in pride events," said Randy Kerr in a voicemail message.

Doug Schweitzer, who is also running for the UCP leadership, posted Saturday on Twitter that he understands the decision and will be attending the event as a spectator.

"While I'm disappointed that #UCP won't be marching in @CalgaryPride I respect their decision," he wrote.

"I will attend @CalgaryPride with our team and family. I'm looking forward to showing support."

Calgary Pride draws upward of 60,000 and this year's parade goes Sept. 3 from noon to 1:30 p.m. along Sixth Avenue S.E., finishing at Prince's Island Park. 

Liberal leader David Khan is the first openly gay leader of a provincial political party. (CBC)

Liberal leader David Khan — the first openly gay leader of a political party in Alberta — said he has no problem with the UCP application being rejected until members complete the workshop.

"I think it's a constructive step moving forward," he said. "Many in the UCP caucus have a history of not supporting LGBTQ rights, including the interim leader [Nathan Cooper] so I think it's good to see Calgary Pride is requiring them to show their stance has changed and they do support LGBTQ rights, and education is always a good idea."

Apart from being the first openly gay leader of a political party in Alberta, Khan said the Liberals have a long history of supporting LGBTQ rights.

"We spearheaded the [Gay-Straight Alliance] bill to have GSAs a requirement in schools," he said.

Khan was elected party leader in June and this will be the first Calgary Pride parade he marches in as head of the provincial Liberals.

Alberta Party leader Greg Clark says he agrees with UCP members being asked to complete a workshop before being allowed to march in the Pride parade. (James Young/CBC)

The Alberta Party application was approved last week, said leader Greg Clark, who also sees fairness in UCP members being blocked.

"I think those of us who are allies of the LGBTQ community have been so for a long time and unapologetically so," he said. "When you look at what's happening around the world, it's important that people and organizations who stand up for LGBTQ Albertans and other people who have historically been disadvantaged, need to do so authentically.

"The Pride community has every right to make sure the people who march… are understanding the history of Pride, what Pride really means."

Both Clark and Khan said members of their parties have not been required to complete the workshop before being accepted to participate.

A spokesperson for the NDP confirmed that party members will be marching in the parade once again this year.

Members of Calgary police have also been invited to march in this year's parade, but without uniforms, firearms, vehicles or "any forms of institutional representation, such as floats."

That decisions follows similar moves taken this year in Toronto and Vancouver, where LGBTQ activists requested that officers participate in plain clothes.

With files from Sarah Lawrynuik