The Calgary LGBTQ+ community is divided after an announcement by Calgary Pride in late July that law enforcement agencies will not be participating in uniform in this year’s pride celebration.
Calgary Pride announced July 26, that Calgary Police Services (CPS), and subsequently RCMP, Correctional Services and other law enforcement agencies will be participating without uniforms, weapons, or any form of institutional representation such as floats and vehicles, in this year’s pride celebration.
The decision, according to Calgary Pride’s press release, is a result of consultation with CPS and Voices, a local coalition of Two-Spirit and racialized LGBTQIA+ community members.
Many people shared their opinions about the decision, but getting people to talk on the record has been difficult for the Calgary Journal.
Calgary Pride will be held from Aug. 25 to Sept. 4. The parade will be held on Sept. 3 from noon to 2 p.m.
“The aim of this announcement is to communicate that as an organization, we believe banning Calgary Police Services, and other law enforcement agencies from participating in Calgary’s Pride activities deters from engaging in meaningful discussions on how law enforcement agencies can best support Calgary’s gender and sexually diverse (GSD) community,” Calgary Pride said in a press release.
While police and other law enforcement agencies are able to participate in the Pride celebration, they are being asked to do so without institutional representation, something that the announcement says is harmful to some members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“We acknowledge the historical oppression and institutionalized 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,” says the release..
Calgary Police Services
“We are obviously disappointed with the decision that police will not be allowed to march in uniform, but we are not going to allow it to undo decades of progress between law enforcement and the LGBTQ+ community in Calgary,” says Chief Const. Roger Chaffin, of the Calgary Police Services, in their press release. “We have a far better relationship with the LGBTQ+ community now than we did even 10 years ago and we want to keep that forward momentum.”
“We have shown a commitment as a service to engaging people in our community who may feel marginalized, and that commitment will not change,” says Chaffin. “We look forward to continuing this work with Calgary Pride and all of Calgary’s diverse communities.”
Voices - Calgary’s Coalition of Two-Spirit and Racialized LGBTQIA+
In their press release, Voices expressed a list of things that they felt needed to be clarified regarding the Calgary Pride announcement.
The statement first clarifies who was involved in the decision, stating that it was a “collaborative discussion” between Voices, Calgary Pride and Calgary Police Services. It also clarifies that Calgary Police Services was represented by Chief Roger Chaffin and Deputy Chief Sat Parhar themselves.
They also expressed that they felt the media was misinterpreting the announcement, with many headlines suggesting police were banned from the parade, when only the uniforms were banned and police were welcome to join the parade as plain-clothed citizens.
Finally, they state that the decision was a collaborative effort between all involved parties. “For those of you who have different levels of privileges within our community, it is now your turn to show support to the ‘smaller few’ amongst you. To show that you yourselves know how to listen and act in solidarity to those that face other challenges and other forms of oppression,” the statement concludes.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi
Some city representatives have been speaking about the decision, including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who seems to sit on the same side as Calgary Police Services.
Mayor Nenshi told Metro News, “Blaming current people for historical oppression would be like saying: 'Previous mayors of Calgary have refused to proclaim Pride Week, therefore the current mayor of Calgary isn't invited to the parade.' I have a challenge with that."
Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, a former police commissioner and a past Pride Parade marshal, did not respond to requests from the Calgary Journal for an interview, but she told the Calgary Herald on July 26 that she was also unhappy with the decision.
“I really need to understand to a far greater extent the leadership and the decisions they’re making, and the implications this has on a go-forward basis. I just can’t support the decision and I can’t be walking in the Pride parade this year,” said Colley-Urquhart, adding she has always supported Pride but believes this is a setback in the relationship with police.
Kevin Allen of the Calgary Gay History Project
Kevin Allen, a lead researcher for the Calgary Gay History Project, documented the complicated history of the relationship between the general LGBTQ+ community and police in a blog post following Calgary Pride’s announcement.
Most of the events happened be within a person’s lifetime, including Allen’s. This includes LGBTQ+ individuals being surveilled and incarcerated between the Second World War and 1969, police tracking gay student activists in the 1970s, harassing and incarcerating gay men in Central Memorial Park between 1970 and 1980, raiding a gay bathhouse in 2002, and even Allan being targeted in 1996 for his sexuality, identified by “the funny way he walked.”
While Allen said if he “had to decide whether Calgary police could march in the Pride Parade in full uniform this year, [he] would not know what to do,” he nevertheless recognized that some people’s responses to the situation were too superficial.
The Calgary Pride Parade route will run along Sixth Avenue from Third Street S.E. to Sixth Street S.W., where it will turn north along Sixth Street S.W. to Third Avenue S.W.
It ends at Prince’s Island Park, where the Pride in the Park celebration occurs. The 2016 parade attracted 60,000 spectators and 150 entries last year, and applications for this year’s parade are currently full.
Keep an eye out for the September/October print edition of the Calgary Journal for an extended version of this story, including interviews from more people involved and affected.
- By Amber McLinden