Vancouver Pride bars officers, seeks police defunding in advance of annual event - InfoNews

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Vancouver Pride bars officers, seeks police defunding in advance of annual event

A large rainbow flag is carried by people marching in the Vancouver Pride Parade, in Vancouver, Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
June 11, 2020 - 12:19 PM

VANCOUVER - Organizers of Vancouver's Pride Parade said all police and corrections officers will be barred from this year's event as the organization stands with Black communities demanding accountability from law enforcement.

The roots of Pride stem from "righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality," said the statement issued Wednesday by the Vancouver Pride Society.

Despite attempts at reform, brutality continues against people of colour, as well as transgendered people, sex workers, the disabled and homeless people, said the statement posted on the society's website.

The Vancouver Police Department said it was "disheartened" by the decision.

"Our members have proudly walked in the parade alongside the community for over 20 years," Const. Tania Visintin said in an emailed statement.

"We also have numerous Vancouver police officers that are members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and take pride in taking part in Pride events each year."

The society said it would inform police and continue to educate the public about its choice.

"Law enforcement, including correctional officers, are not welcome to march in the Vancouver Pride Parade or exhibit at our festivals," it added.

The decision steps up restrictions imposed in 2017 banning uniformed officers from the parade.

RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko, a spokeswoman for the Mounties in nearby Surrey, responded on social media, saying that as an LGBT police officer she is disheartened by the decision.

"When we wear our uniforms and participate in Pride events, we do so not only to stand within our community, but to stand up to discrimination within our own institutions," Sturko said in a Twitter post.

The society also announced its support for the movement to defund police.

"Calls for and funding for police reform have not worked," it said, adding it will support "alternative ways to manage public safety."

Visintin said there are specialized units dealing with diversity, inclusion and Indigenous relations, writing that they are "solely responsible" for developing the department's relationships with diverse communities, including LGBTQ2S+ residents.

"As much as we are disappointed by the decision, we do respect Vancouver Pride Society's decision and will continue to be a support to the community as best we can," her statement said.

Vancouver's Pride festival is marking its 42nd year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the society to revise its events and parade, which routinely attracts more than 500,000 people.

It plans online events beginning July 27, culminating with what organizers describe as a Virtual Pride Parade Livestream on Aug 2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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