Behind the scenes at the Vancouver Pride parade

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      Here's what I like to do at the Vancouver Pride parade: show up early and talk to people before they start marching down Robson, Denman, and Pacific streets in the blistering heat.

      It gives me a chance to find out what's on people's minds and take a few snapshots.

      One of the first eye-catching moments for me was seeing Vancouver Centre MP Hedy Fry's float.

      There were only a couple of Liberals present at that time—Fry hadn't arrived by that point.

      What stood out was how it reflected Vancouver's LGBT history—including big names in the community.

      It also featured names of nightclubs that no longer exist, stirring up memories for those who remember spending time there.

      Of course, there was also a reference to the Stonewall riots, which occurred 50 years ago in New York City, launching the modern gay-rights movement.

      Vancouver Centre Liberal MP Hedy Fry's float paid tribute to some of Vancouver's LGBT heroes.
      Charlie Smith
      Hedy Fry's float also mentioned some of the LGBT-friendly clubs that are no longer with us in Vancouver.
      Charlie Smith

      Down on Alberni Street, there were plenty of educational and labour organizations.

      The chair of the Burnaby school board, Gary Wong, is a regular at the Pride parade, so I wasn't surprised to see him again this year.

      He was accompanied by the new vice chair, Jen Yang Mezei.

      Burnaby was far ahead of most other school districts when it brought in LGBT-friendly policies back in 2011, something that Wong takes pride in to this day.

      Burnaby school board vice chair Jen Mezei and chair Gary Wong showed their support for equal rights.
      Charlie Smith

      One of the more imaginative school district floats was from West Vancouver. It included several phrases designed to encourage kids to be comfortable with their identity and sexual orientation.

      The West Vancouver school district placed inspiring statements on its float.
      Charlie Smith

      I spotted floats from Adler University, BCIT, and other postsecondary institutions, but not UBC. That's because the Vancouver Pride Society expelled B.C.'s largest university after it permitted a critic of the trans community to speak on campus earlier this year.

      Tech workers marched in today's parade.
      Charlie Smith

      The labour movement has been participating in the Pride parade for many years.

      And it's also played a significant role in the advancement of LGBT rights through collective agreements and community advocacy.

      So it was no surprise that the big players, like the B.C. Fed, CUPE, and the BCGEU were present.

      There's always a large labour contingent at the Pride parade.
      Charlie Smith
      The B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
      Charlie Smith

      I didn't see any Conservatives in the area I was in today—and I most certainly wasn't going to bump into Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, because he's boycotting all Pride-related events in Canada this year.

      That didn't come as a surprise to Svend Robinson, a former MP who's trying to stage a comeback with the NDP in Burnaby North–Seymour.

      He told the Straight that in his years in Parliament, conservative-minded politicians, including those who were elected as Reformers, routinely voted against measures that would advance equality for the LGBT community.

      The minister of state for child care, Katrina Chen, says she's knocking on doors in North Burnaby to help Svend Robinson get back into Parliament in October.
      Charlie Smith

      Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May also expressed dismay, but no surprise over Scheer's position.

      The two most famous Green politicians in the land, Elizabeth May and Andrew Weaver, were both spotted on Alberni Street.
      Charlie Smith

      NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, on the other hand, preferred to talk up Justin Trudeau's shortcomings in promoting equality for the LGBT community, citing, among other things, the federal government's failure to make things easier for queer refugees to come to Canada.

      Singh also brought up the Liberals' refusal to treat blood donations from gay men on the same footing as those from other demographic groups.

      Currently, men cannot donate blood if they have had sex with another man within the past three months.

      "We know that Trudeau talked about ending the ban on blood for men who are LGBTQ, but he hasn't done that," Singh said. "So it perpetuates a homophobic myth that somehow, gay blood is dangerous."

      NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh (second from left) made new friends at today's parade.
      Charlie Smith

      Several new NDP candidates, and some who've been around for a while, were happy to share their thoughts with me when I was in their area.

      Vancouver Granville's Yvonne Hanson was charged up about talking about the climate, saying that's the top issue in her riding.

      Justine Bell, who's running in North Vancouver, said she's eager to listen to what people in her riding have to say, including members of the Squamish Nation. Bell's father, Bill Bell, was a long-time New Democrat who once ran as a Liberal in North Vancouver.

      And Breen Ouellette, the recently nominated NDP candidate in Vancouver Centre, said he wants the federal government to focus more efforts on housing—and not just by promoting homeownership.

      Three new NDP federal candidates—Yvonne Hanson (Vancouver Granville), Justine Bell (North Vancouver), and Breen Ouellette (Vancouver Centre)—joined veteran Svend Robinson for this photo.
      Charlie Smith

      Oullette and Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan forcefully declared that there has been genocide against First Nations, fully agreeing with this conclusion from the National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls. Kwan said that the inquiry's calls to action need to be part of the discussion in the upcoming federal election, including timelimes for when they can be delivered.

      Vancouver East NDP MP Jenny Kwan said one of her goals is to get as many New Democrats elected as possible this October.
      Charlie Smith