Ottawa police chief backtracks, won't wear uniform at Pride parade

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau has backed down from his pledge to wear his full uniform at this year's Pride parade, and now says he'll wear a golf shirt instead.

'Hope this shows our commitment to continue listening and building trust'

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau now says he won't wear a full uniform at this month's Pride parade, and will wear an Ottawa police golf shirt instead. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau has backed down from his pledge to wear his full uniform at this year's Pride parade, and now says he'll wear an Ottawa police golf shirt instead.

The reversal comes after weeks of words exchanged between police and Capital Pride in public statements, and after discussions between groups behind the scenes.

It started in June when Capital Pride formally asked Ottawa police officers who plan to attend 2017 Pride events to leave their uniforms and police cruisers at home.

At the time, Bordeleau said police had already decided to keep their cruisers out of the parade on Aug. 27, but individual officers would decide whether or not to wear their full uniforms.

"We are proud of our uniform, and it is part of our identity — it's who we are and how we serve the community," Bordeleau said in June.

Ottawa police were also asked to keep their cruisers out of Pride events this year. (Twitter/@DRRMatters)

Reiterates position

Bordeleau doubled down on that committment in early July after Capital Pride issued a statement explaining its request.

"I think even within the LGBTQ community there are differing views from that perspective, and I think not to include us or to push us away is not the appropriate way to go. If there's conflict, let's work through it. We've worked through conflict before," he said at the time.

"I think it's important for us to continue working together, and us being part of [the parade] ... I think sends a strong message that we will continue to be at the table to talk through those difficult issues."

Days later, after criticism from police and others about its request and a social media post from Bordeleau saying he personally planned to don his uniform, Capital Pride said its decision wasn't about excluding people, but about trying to make people of colour feel safe at Pride.

"We're not asking anyone to exclude themselves. We're asking everyone to include themselves, but in a way that makes everyone feel safe," Capital Pride board chair Tammy Dopson said at the time.

"We absolutely agree there's been incredible, tremendous gains made in the relationship between our police forces and the LGBTQ community. We're not denying that. What we're saying is that more work needs to be done ... so that it extends to our persons of colour in the community."

Will wear police golf shirt instead

Then on Monday, Bordeleau announced he'll join his officers and civilian staff in wearing Ottawa police golf shirts, not full uniforms, at Pride this year.

"For many members of our service the request to exclude our uniforms felt like a rejection of that part of our identity and our own journey towards inclusion," Bordeleau wrote in a news release.

"Since that time, we have had further discussion with LGBTQ2 police members, from a number of community partners and liaison committee members. The LGBTQ2 members that I met with expressed hurt and frustration about the request to exclude uniforms for off-duty officers at Pride this year. The majority also felt that attending Pride in uniform would not help us build trust.

"After reviewing the options, they decided not to wear their uniforms during this year's Pride parade and will wear other OPS-identified clothing. I fully support this decision and am proud of them for carefully considering how best to proceed in order to move forward together."

Bordeleau wrote that he hopes the decision "shows our commitment to continue listening and building trust with the diverse communities we serve."