A series of controversial incidents involving street preachers in Vancouver’s LGBT-oriented West End have sparked concerns about safety in the neighbourhood from the mayor as well as activists critical of the police’s response.
Over the summer, several street preachers have been appearing in the Davie Village, raising concerns from residents and LGBT community members. A confrontation between the group and local sports radio host Justin Morrisette, an ally who sought to protect LGBT people, on August 22 led to police arresting two individuals and Morrisette being hospitalized for injuries to his leg.
One of the individuals facing charges has been linked to Christ’s Forgiveness Ministries founder David Lynn from Toronto, who launched a cross-Canada tour in Victoria on August 29 where he was met with protests by LGBT people and allies.
He then appeared in several locations throughout Metro Vancouver—including Gastown, East Vancouver, and Surrey—before performing baptisms at Sunset Beach in Vancouver’s West End on August 31, where he was met with a large number of protestors.
Lynn had denied that he was there for any LGBT–related reasons. However, he previously faced opposition when he appeared in Toronto’s LGBT-based Church-Wellesley neighbourhood.
Nonetheless, Mayor Kennedy Stewart had called the scheduled appearance of Lynn “despicable”.
As a result, Kennedy issued a statement on September 2, which said that Lynn and his associates are not welcome in Vancouver.
“The harm and violence they cause to the 2SLGBTQ+ community do not reflect the Vancouver we know or want,” he stated.
Adding that talk is not enough, he said he is taking action by consulting with members of queer communities and B.C. Attorney General David Eby to develop policies to address this situation.
However, Vancouver police also faced criticism for how they handled the situation, including not arresting Lynn.
The Coalition Against Bigotry–Pacific has planned to hold a protest against the VPD for not protecting queer communities and had raised concerns about public safety and a lack of physical distancing at the August 31 incident.
The demonstration will be held at 3 p.m. tomorrow (September 5) at the Jim Deva Plaza at the rainbow crosswalks at Davie and Bute streets in the West End. The rally will be followed by a march to English Bay.
In addition, a new group called the Vancouver Pink Pumas have formed to promote safety in the Davie Village and will patrol the area from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.
In response to criticism, the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) had issued a statement on September 2 to explain that police cannot arrest someone if a crime has not taken place.
The VPD stated that the actions of the preacher did not meet the threshold for inciting hate according to the Criminal Code. In addition, officers are obligated to protect everyone in attendance and are not allowed to take sides as the right to free speech is upheld by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.