Edmonton police, RCMP, military banned from future Pride parades

Thousands lined Whyte Avenue in Edmonton Saturday for the city's annual Pride Parade. The event champions inclusion and diversity, though not everyone was welcome at this year's celebration.

Protesters formed a human chain to stop the parade until organisers met their demands

Thousands attended the 2018 Edmonton Pride Parade along Whyte Avenue. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Thousands lined Whyte Avenue in Edmonton Saturday for the city's annual Pride Parade. The event champions inclusion and diversity, but not everyone was welcome at this year's celebration.

Members of the Edmonton Police Service and RCMP joined the parade out of uniform, but their presence still triggered objections.

About a dozen people protested the police participation by holding hands and forming a human chain to stop the parade shortly after it started around 11:30 a.m.

Protest organizers said they interrupted the celebration to force a response from the Edmonton Pride Festival Society, which had previously turned down the idea of shutting police out of the 2018 event.

They demanded that police and military members be uninvited from walking in future parades and that official pride spaces acknowledge the event's history as a demonstration against police oppression.

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The group also asked that the Edmonton Pride Festival Society do more to include trans people and people of colour.

After about half an hour, the parade resumed and officers were allowed to complete the route.

In a statement issued online by the pride festival society, parade organizers said they had agreed to all the protesters' demands.

"EPS, RCMP, and Military will not march in the parade until the community feels that they have taken the necessary steps for all community members to feel safe with their presence," the statement reads.

Officers weren't the only ones to feel a chill at the 2018 parade.

Last month, the organizing committee decided to bar the right-wing United Conservative Party from participating, stating its application did not meet their criteria.

United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney, whose party was not allowed to march in the Edmonton Pride Parade, instead hosted a pancake breakfast Saturday. (CBC)

UCP leader Jason Kenney hosted a pancake breakfast for about 50 people before the official parade started.

"This is just a relaxed family event," Kenney told the group. "We hope that all of you that are going on to celebrate the major and official pride events will have a great time.

"This is pride month and the Edmonton Pride Parade is an opportunity just to underscore our shared Alberta commitment to equality of opportunity, to human dignity for all."

The city declared a Gay Pride Day in June 1993. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan, a parade marshal and openly gay man, said the exclusion of Kenney and his party reflects the way many members of the LGBTQ feel about the UCP and its policies.

"I think it sends a clear message that they have to do better," Khan said.

"The Pride committee haven't found that they're doing enough to show that they care about this community and that their policies are going to support all Albertans, including LGBTQ Albertans."

Khan walked at the front of the parade, followed closely by Premier Rachel Notley and members of the Alberta NDP.

Premier Rachel Notley dressed in rainbow colours for the 2018 Edmonton Pride Parade. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

The annual parade highlights a less recognized side of Alberta, Notley said, and serves as a reminder to politicians of how diverse the province is.

"Nobody should think that they know Alberta and they can tell Alberta what it is," Notley told reporters at the event. "Albertans are changing every day and Albertans will tell us who they are."

She recalled seeing a much smaller group of people march through downtown Edmonton nearly three decades ago, before the city declared a Gay Pride Day in June 1993.

"People yelling at them, saying awful things to them — and now we're here," Notley said. "The level of celebration and support, it reflects today's Alberta.

"Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community have not always enjoyed this kind of acceptance and this kind of celebration. And they've had to demonstrate tremendous, steely-eyed courage to be who they are, and so we're going to celebrate that."

Rain didn't dampen spirits at the 2018 Edmonton Pride Parade. (Zoe Todd/CBC)