Update (May 19): BLMV announced that they are displeased with the VPS decision for Pride 2017. For BLVM's reaction and more, see this article.
The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) released a community consultation report today (May 18) that includes their final decision on how to handle the issue of the participation of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in the Pride parade. The issue was raised by Black Lives Matter Vancouver's petition for uniformed, armed police to participate in the parade.
The VPS conducted consultations with over 300 community members and organizations, including LGBT organizations, the VPD, RCMP, and other law-enforcement agencies, over the past 10 months.
"Our goal is to find the solution that prioritizes the most marginalized in our community while continuing collaboration and dialogue," the 2016-2017 report states.
The report cites how some community members, including those who have experienced harassment or violence from the police, told them that they feel unsafe, unwelcome, or scared if uniformed police are at Pride.
The VPS also found that many community members recognize improvements in interactions between police and public but would like to see more work done in addressing racism, ableism, transphobia, and homophobia, which have led to a distrust of police.
On the other hand, there were also members of groups who had experienced racially motivated police brutality who wanted the VPS remain in the parade. Some newcomers to Canada who moved from countries with anti-LGBT legislation and violence felt proud to live in a country with police who support the community. Some members of Vancouver's black community expressed a desire to see the police remain the parade.
The VPS released a statement today (May 18) to announce that the police will be permitted to participate in the 2017 parade but under specific conditions:
• Police officers will participate in the parade within the City of Vancouver entry, which also includes city staff and officials, the Vancouver Public Library, the Vancouver Park Board, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, and B.C. Emergency Health Services. Members of these departments will walk together in a mixed group rather than as specific groups.
• The VPS is requesting that the majority of VPD and RCMP participate in the parade in t-shirts. However, 20 percent will be allowed to walk in uniform.
• No marked police or law-enforcement vehicles will be allowed in the 2017 Pride parade. The RCMP will have their Diversity Bus, the VPD will have an unmarked vehicle, and the Correctional Services of Canada will have a white van with a logo on its door.
• Sirens will not be allowed to be used in the parade by police organizations as well as Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, B.C. Ambulance Service, and Corrections Canada.
• VPD and RCMP members have agreed to participate in listening circles organized by the VPS before and after Pride, in which community members can share their experiences with police in order to address issues regarding trust.
In a previous interview with the Georgia Straight, VPS co-executive director Kieran Burgess stated that the after an analysis of the City of Vancouver's entry, they found the VPD was overrepresented in comparison to other departments. The VPS has asked the city for equal representation among departments, which the city has agreed to.
This decision differs from Pride Toronto, which has decided the police will not participate in their parade. The decision also differs from St. John's Pride, which reversed their decision and invited police to participate in their parade. The Halifax Police Department had voluntarily withdrawn from their city's parade.
The Vancouver Pride parade will be held on August 6.