The Victoria Pride Society is once again consulting with the city’s LGBTQ* community to decide if uniformed police officers should be allowed in this year’s Pride Parade.
For over a decade police participated in the parade, but this decision came into question last year for the 25th annual Pride Parade.
Many people in the larger LGBTQ* community felt that they had faced police oppression for decades as a marginalized group, and found it inappropriate to have uniformed officers march alongside them.
Others felt that Pride is about celebrating inclusion and diversity, and that barring police would lay in contrast to that.
After a year of consultation, the Victoria Pride Society (VPS) decided that police could march collectively with the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (GVPDAC), but not as independent departments. Only department chiefs and officers who identified as LGBTQ* wore their uniforms, while the other participants were in Pride-themed costumes. Four officers wore their uniforms in 2018.
These decisions were called into question in January 2019 by Victoria’s Alt Pride organization, which called for zero police presence at this year’s event.
On the group’s Facebook page they asked that the volunteer-driven VPS help “develop meaningful lasting relationships with local marginalized communities.”
This pushback has sent the VPS back to the drawing board to once again canvas the community, a move VPS president David Tillson says he personally finds frustrating.
“It’s taking up financial resources, human resources and a lot of time,” Tillson said. “I believe that the Pride Parade has maybe never been a protest in Victoria, it’s a celebration.”
Nonetheless, everyone’s opinion needs to be considered.
“I know everyone has had different experiences, and many won’t change their minds,” he said.
“But the police here are very proactive… You can’t tell a gay or lesbian police officer not to march, this is their parade as well.”
VPS communications coordinator Scott Daly said that by far the biggest issue the society faces is police inclusion, which is why it’s started an online questionnaire to gauge people’s stance.
“So far we’ve had a great response,” Daly said. “In the first couple days we had over 300 people participate.”
Two upcoming consultations are planned to occur before final decisions are made for the July 7 parade.