Written Work : Pride Parades exclusion of police

To voice my concern over the recent statement by Edmonton Pride released June 9 2018 over own City of Edmonton's decision to exclude not just police, but military, from their future Edmonton Pride Parades, (please see here), I have posted my 2017 article written on the same issue in Calgary. I am extremely disappointed in Edmonton Pride organizers to make this brash decision in response to a small minority of people. Pride should be inclusive and about acceptance. I am proud of our police force and our military in this country that come from a genuine place. Individual experience should not dictate an entire movement that seeks to move institutions forward.

The Inclusion Paradox: Calgary Pride Parade 2017

Written by Martina Crory for Dr. John Soroski's Politics of Identity Class on October 6 2017.

   Pride parades have become a staple within the LGBQT2 community for decades as a way to publicly celebrate and endorse the strides the community has made in both society and the law. Citing oppressional hardship over the decades, it is an opportunity for both members of the community and their allies to march together in solidarity. Pride parades have drawn the attention of corporate sponsors, priests, politicians and citizens from all walks of life. In 2017, the Calgary Pride welcomed its 27th year of its annual Pride parade.

   For decades, Calgary law-enforcement officers have proudly volunteered to participate in the parade through floats and banners to display their alliance with the community and affirm the occupation’s dedication to endorse equality and protection. The uniform is a symbol of pride for many of the officers, but more recently, has become a target.This year, Calgary Pride announced for the first time they would not be allowing uniformed law-enforcement officers to participate in the parade, a decision made in consultation with the Calgary Police Services (CPS) and YYC Voices. On July 26 2017, Pride organizers released a statement:

   “We acknowledge the historical oppression and institutionalized racism faced by queer/trans people of colour and Indigenous persons, and the potentially negative association with weapons, uniforms, and other symbols of law enforcement. We also recognize the oppression of the gender and sexually diverse community at large, the discrimination faced by members of law enforcement who identify as part of the GSD community” (Calgary Pride).

   Seemingly out of the blue, uniformed officers were no longer welcome. A year before, the same request was made by YYC Voices to unwelcome uniformed law-enforcement at the 26th annual Pride parade. Calgary Pride responded no to the request in a statement:

“Calgary Police Service in particular has taken meaningful actions in support of the LGBTQ2S community. A frequent participant in the Calgary Pride Festival, Calgary Police Service also has dedicated diversity outreach officers and a sexual and gender diversity advisory board” (White).

   It appears that just one year ago, Pride organizers were content at the level of engagement and the decorum of CPS, and offered no grievances towards their participation in the parade, leaving us to wonder, why now? It is difficult to pinpoint any motive directed at a certain circumstance or event in recent times.

    There have been, of course, historic instances in which CPS have been accused of targeting the gay community through policing. The persecution and jailing of a gay Calgary bus driver, Everett Klippert, lead to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 (Michael Platt). In 2002, 17 charges were laid following a raid on a bathhouse, and the Calgary police were accused of “not recognizing gay culture” by a Vancouver journalist (CBC). To aide in this acknowledgement of this history, CPS granted the Calgary Gay History Project access to their achieves. The founder of the project noted it was “courageous [of CPS] because a peek in their closest wasn’t pretty” (Kevin Allen). By unpacking and exposing the former discriminatory practices against the LGBQT2 community, CPS can confront their past and admit their historic failings.

    But judging the current Calgary police force by the historical grievances of the past is problematic. It confines the identity of the current police force to that of their predecessors, making it difficult to overcome the legacy of fear that predates them. This inability to overcome a historically-based identity undermines the extensive work the CPS has done in recent years to engage and connect the two communities.

    Over the decades, Calgary Police Services has been actively trying to redefine their relationship with the community; from enemy to ally. Currently, CPS has a sexuality and gender-diversity liaison that seeks to “promote two-way communication, reduce stereotypical negative images, promote education and awareness, identify and resolve crime concerns and increase police awareness of community issues” (Calgary Police Service). Further, CPS has a specialized committee to help foster trust and collaboration between the police and the LGBQT2 community. The Sexuality and Gender Diversity Chief’s Advisory Board has members such as a Crown Prosecutor, Senior CPS officers, and LGBQT2 community members. A welcomed consultation process, the committee has been featured in a positive light by publications such as Gay Calgary. To further promote mindful interactions with the community, all new member of CPS are required to take a sensitivity training. The institutional efforts to reform and replace the negative associations of police culture with one of understanding, tolerance and acceptance appear to be genuine and sincere.

    Despite this pre-existing and ongoing engagement, Pride stated that if CPS wish to display future institutional representation within Calgary Pride celebrations, the CPS Police Chief, as well as the CPS Senior Executives, must engage in formal diversity and inclusion training. This request is ironic, not only given the extent in which CPS is already involved in community engagement, but because a year earlier Pride had gracefully acknowledged the attempts of CPS to produce meaningful dialogue and sensitivity.

     In a follow up statement to the Pride’s request, Chief Constable Roger Chaffin of the Calgary Police Service said, “We look forward to ongoing conversations with those in Calgary’s LGBTQ+ community that have concerns so we can find ways to improve our relationship and address their concerns” (Pride Calgary). Leaving us to wonder, what more can they do?

    The current members of Calgary Police Service alone are not, and should not, be held responsible for the institutional or historic grievances of the past when they have undertaken such meaningful attempts to rectify their mistakes. CPS is not ignorant nor blind to the challenges they face within the community, but by disqualifying them from showing their pride in an institutional manner of both their work and dedication to the community, you risk undoing the hard work of the both CPS and the LGBQT2 community to form the relationships, trust, and unity needed in for a healthy civil society.

Works Cited

Allan, Kevin. “Our History with the Police.” Calgary Gay History, 27 July 2017, calgaryqueerhistory.ca/2017/07/27/our-history-with-the-police/.

Buck, Andy. “Discussing Community: Safety Meet the Advisory Board.” Gay Calgary, Aug. 2013, pp. 17–19.

Calgary Pride. “Calgary Pride Parade and Law Enforcement Participation.” Press Releases, Calgary Pride, 27 July 2017, www.calgarypride.ca/press-releases/lea-participation-2017/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

Calgary Pride, and Calgary Police Service. “Joint statement regarding Calgary Pride and Calgary Police Service.” Calgary Pride, 25 Aug. 2017, www.calgarypride.ca/press-releases/joint-statement-regarding-calgary-pride-and-calgary-police-service/.

News, CBC. “Bathhouse raid angers Calgary gay community.” CBCnews, 20 Dec. 2002, www.cbc.ca/news/canada/bathhouse-raid-angers-calgary-gay-community-1.353241.

Platt, Micheal. “How the Persecution of a Popular Calgary bus driver half a century ago prompted Canada's Decriminalization of Homosexuality.” Calgary Sun, 8 Sept. 2015, www.calgarysun.com/2015/09/06/how-the-persecution-of-a-popular-calgary-bus-driver-half-a-century-ago-prompted-canadas-decriminalization-of-homosexuality.

White, Ryan. “Uniformed Calgary Police Service members welcome to march in Pride Parade.” CTV News Calgary , 26 Aug. 2016, calgary.ctvnews.ca/uniformed-calgary-police-service-members-welcome-to-march-in-pride-parade-1.3045897.

YYC Voices. “About.” Voices - Calgary's Coalition of Two-Spirit & Racialized lgbtqia, Facebook, Aug. 2016, www.facebook.com/pg/yycvoices/about/. Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.