Manitoba

'Let's have an open mind': Civilian staffer wants decision on police uniforms in Pride Parade revisited

A central processing officer with the Winnipeg Police Service is upset officers won’t be allowed to wear their uniforms during the city’s annual Pride parade for the third year in a row.

Officers who feel left out need to work toward 'a more inclusive police force': Pride Winnipeg

A police officer is seen above at the Toronto Pride Parade in this file photo from July 2016. As with Toronto Pride, Pride Winnipeg now prohibits police uniforms at its parade. (Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock)

Jordan Lira says he's proud of who he is and would like to celebrate his identity by walking in Pride Winnipeg's annual parade next month.

But there's a key piece of who he is that he can't showcase in the parade — his Winnipeg Police Service uniform.

"If you're telling people that you can't show up to a public parade based off of a uniform, to me that's, in my opinion, discrimination," said Lira, who — as a central processing officer — is a uniformed civilian member of the police service.

"You have taken someone who wears a uniform for a job and totally disregarded their values, their beliefs, everything," he said in an interview with CBC News, clarifying he was expressing his personal opinion and not speaking as a representative of the police force.

Lira, 23, works out of the downtown Winnipeg police headquarters processing prisoners and has been with the service for four years. Before his current role as a civilian member, he was a cadet.

Jordan Lira, 23, wants Pride Winnipeg to allow officers to march in the annual Pride parade in uniform. Lira, who is gay and works for the Winnipeg Police Service as a central processing officer, says he would like to showcase his uniform. (Gary Soliak/CBC)

Pride Winnipeg said in a statement Wednesday it stands by its 2017 decision that, while they are invited to participate in the annual parade, police officers are barred from marching in uniform.

"If officers and cadets in the community feel left out, they are encouraged to reach out to their decision makers and pave the way for a more inclusive police force," said an emailed statement from the Pride board.

Pride Winnipeg president Muhammad Ahsan was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.

The Winnipeg Police Service said in a statement the force continues to support the festival and parade.

"We look forward to discussions with their board regarding officers who wish to partake in the festival or parade while in uniform," a written statement from the service said.

Some police officers will be at the June 2 parade in uniform — to direct traffic.

"To me, that's kind of hypocritical, and especially with their whole vision of what Pride is — is everyone is equal, and let's move forward," said Lira, who has directed traffic at the Pride Parade as a cadet.

"It's just like being on a sports team and you're kind of like the bench warmer. You're sitting on the side, you really want to go play, but you're not part of the team — you're not part of the whole celebratory win.

"So for me, sitting on the sideline, I wasn't able to actually be proud of who I was," Lira said.

Police have been banned from wearing their uniforms at the annual Pride Parade in Winnipeg since 2017. There are similar bans in other cities like Toronto. Above, police march in a 2016 Calgary Pride Parade. (Rachel Maclean/CBC)

The decision to ban officers from marching in uniform at the Winnipeg parade came on the heels of Pride Toronto's decision to ban police officers from wearing their uniforms in May 2017.

Pride Winnipeg said an online survey it created had 600 responses, with a third of respondents reporting a negative encounter with police. Pride said it held community consultations and the survey was given to marginalized groups.

Lira, who has been to Pride celebrations in Australia where uniformed officers were allowed, thinks a new survey should be created and given to the broader LGBT community. "I for sure didn't get it. I didn't even know about it," he said.

He also wants to know why other organizations with rocky histories with the LGBT community are allowed to march in the parade.

Expects backlash for sharing his opinion

"You know the military is here, church groups are here," said Lira, who has been out as gay since joining the force.

"If it's the issue of the uniform, then why is the military able to be involved? You know, the churches did a lot of harm."

Lira, who aspires to become a regular police officer, said he expects backlash for coming forward with his opinion on an issue that has divided the LGBT community in Winnipeg and in other cities.

He challenged people who disagree to hear him out and think about the several gay and lesbian colleagues he has who can't wear their uniforms at Pride.

"I understand people are going to be upset with me, with some of the things that I've probably said, but that's why I'm talking about this. Let's have an open mind."

The decision to ban officers from marching in uniform at the Winnipeg parade came on the heels of Pride Toronto's decision to ban police officers from wearing their uniforms in May 2017. 2:01

About the Author

​Austin Grabish started reporting when he was young, landing his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

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