Soldiers on parade: Armed Forces officially enlist in Montreal Pride festivities

A directive issued by the Force's chief of defence, Gen. Jonathan Vance, states that officers are no longer required to ask for permission to march in the LGBT Pride parade in uniform.

Gen. Jonathan Vance issued directive encouraging Forces' members to participate in Aug. 20 Pride parade

Members of the Royal Canadian Navy Band participated in Toronto Pride in 2016. (CAF)

The Quebec division of the Canadian Armed Forces will be an official participant in Montreal's Pride parade on Aug. 20.

While members of the CAF have been allowed to march in LGBT parades in uniform by request in past years, this is the first time members are being widely encouraged to do so as a group.

A directive issued by the Forces' chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, states that officers are no longer required to ask for permission to participate wearing their uniform.

"In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion, the CDS encourages all members of the CAF to attend and participate in pride events in uniform," the directive reads. 

However, alteration of the uniform in any way, including adding pins or stickers, is prohibited.

"The Canadian Armed Forces recognizes that the strength of the team comes from the diversity of its people, which is why participation in Pride Parades is absolutely supported," said Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations for the federal Department of National Defence, in an email to CBC.

Capt. André Jean, left, Lt.-Col. Alain Veilleux, centre, and Lt. Delphine Bonnardot are co-presidents of Diversité +. (

In works for months

One of soldiers who will be participating in the parade for the first time this month is Capt. André Jean, a member of the 2nd Canadian Division and the co-president of the Diversité + team, which represents visible minorities and LGBT members within the Forces.

​"It's exciting," Jean told CBC. "When I'm in the parade, I will be extremely proud to represent the Canadian Forces."

The directive from the highest level of the Canadian Forces comes just days after U.S. President Donald Trump's tweet banning transgender people from serving in the American military, prompting a public outcry.

However, Jean maintains that the timing is coincidental, saying that this initiative was proposed by the Diversité + team and has been in the works for months.

So far, he has eight members signed up to participate in Montreal's parade and is hoping to recruit 50 people in all.

'It's great news'

Fierté Montréal vice-president Jean-Sébastien Boudreault said he is pleased to welcome the group to the event, expected to be the largest pride parade in the city's history.

He applauds Vance's directive, saying it helps raise awareness and increase visibility for LGBT people who are serving in the military.

"There are still some places in this world where it's not as easy to be LGBT," he said. "To have the head of the army step forward and say this ... it's a great advancement. It's great news."

In some other Canadian cities, the presence of uniformed police officers at Pride events has stirred controversy this year, with parade organizers in Toronto and Ottawa asking police not to show up in uniform

Boudreault says he understands why some groups are uncomfortable having uniformed police participating, but he doesn't believe the presence of uniformed military officers will illicit the same negative reaction.

"The army is not on the street and dealing with people here in Quebec," he said. "People are not in contact with soldiers."

"The military people in the parade will not be carrying weapons. That's one of the main things that was problematic."

Boudreault said the Montreal police service has not requested to participate in the 2017 parade.

Participants wave rainbow flags during the annual Montreal pride parade in 2016. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The 2017 Montréal LGBTQ Parade is scheduled to begin Sunday, Aug. 20 at noon. The parade will start on the corner of Drummond Street and travel east on René-Lévesque Boulevard.