Justifiable exclusion? Canadian LGBTQ Pride bans police officers in uniforms


Pic: Calgary Pride

Following a growing trend, LGBTQ Pride organisers in the Canadian city of Calgary have restricted the participation of police officers in their parade.

As the LGBTQ community has become more accepted in many countries, members of the police have increasingly taken part in Pride events in a visible show of support for the community.

While many see this as a sign of progress, some activists believe that as long as LGBTQ people and other minorities face discrimination from law enforcement officials, it is inappropriate and offensive to have uniformed officers participating in parades and marches.

Last year, Calgary Police took part in the city’s annual Pride parade in uniform, holding a banner that proclaimed: “Proud to be your ally”. But that won’t be happening this year.

In a statement, Calgary Pride announced it would “welcome the participation of Calgary Police Services, and other law enforcement agencies” but only under certain conditions.

“We acknowledge the historical oppression and institutionalised racism faced by queer / trans people of colour and Indigenous persons, and the potentially negative association with weapons, uniforms, and other symbols of law enforcement,” said the organisers.

Therefore, they announced, police staff and officers will only be allowed to participate “without uniforms, firearms, vehicles, or any forms of institutional representation, such as floats etc.”

A second condition to participate in the September 3 Pride event is that the Calgary Police must “engage in formal Diversity and Inclusion training”.

The organisers added that the Calgary Police would still continue to provide security at the parade “as a part of their civic duty to ensure participants, and activities are safe”.

Similar restrictions on police participation were also recently enacted by the organisers of Toronto and Vancouver Prides but there has been criticism of these decisions, including from within the LGBTQ community itself.

There have been accusations of hypocrisy

There was heated debate about the issue on Calgary Pride’s Facebook page. Elizabeth Chorney-Booth described the restrictions as a “great move,” adding: “People need to appreciate why some folks are uncomfortable with police in uniform marching in what should be and still is a civil rights march”.

Others saw it as hypocritical. Phil Vaive wrote: “Pride is meant to be about inclusiveness and bringing people together, not about segregation and telling people that they can’t be a part of it unless they meet a specific set of criteria. While I understand that there have been issues with police and the LGBT community, and police and racial minorities, creating divisiveness is not the way to go about solving the problems.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was “nervous when you start to penalise people today for historical things previous people might have done”. Police Chief Roger Chaffin also said he was disappointed by the decision but stated: “We are not going to allow it to undo decades of progress between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community in Calgary.”

In an editorial, the Calgary Herald argued that Pride’s stance didn’t make sense, commenting that, “seeing police on the sidelines getting paid to do their jobs isn’t traumatic but watching volunteers march in the parade is [?]”

The newspaper asked further, “How is banning a large group of people — including uniformed LGBTQ police officers — inclusive?”

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