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RCMP said Wednesday they are reassessing their decision to deny a permit to the first Steinbach Pride parade to march on the street.
The Mounties support the Steinbach Pride parade and will march alongside participants on the morning of July 9, the RCMP declared Wednesday afternoon.
Other parades and events have closed down streets in Steinbach, a city of 14,000 people 65 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.
But the Mounties told organizers of the July 9 Pride March they would have to stick to sidewalks because a lane of the street along the march route is partially under construction.
There has been a permit all along for the Pride participants to use the sidewalk to march from Steinbach United Church to city hall, RCMP Sgt. Bert Paquet said by email.
Said Paquet: "The RCMP fully supports the LGBT community and the Steinbach Pride Parade. The Steinbach RCMP has been working with event organizers to find a safe route for the parade and its participants.
"While a (street) permit was initially declined for safety reasons, we are reassessing the request. Our primary concern was and remains the safety of event participants. Our officers will be there to ensure security and are looking forward to walking alongside participants on July 9," Paquet said.
Pride parade organizer Michelle McHale could not be reached Wednesday but had said on the parade’s Facebook site the parade would be held on the sidewalk.
There were reports the RCMP had turned down a street parade because of construction and Saturday traffic.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, NDP caucus, and Liberal caucus all plan on having members take part, though Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen, Health Minister and Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen and Tory MP Ted Falk have all said they won’t be participating.
Winnipeg Pride chairman Jonathan Niemczyk said Wednesday he expects upwards of 700 people coming from outside Steinbach.
"We’re playing a supporting role for them," Niemczyk said. "I get a sense there’s going to be pretty large attendance."
The Winnipeg Pride parade had 92 vehicles of some sort — cars, trucks, flatbeds, bicycles — but Steinbach has allowed only pedestrians, he said. "At the end of the day, it is a demonstration. If they spill onto the street, the police will have to operate a rolling blockade," Niemczyk said.
"There are going to be hundreds — the street is going to be used."
Even with that many people and a short parade route starting at 10:30 a.m., it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for the parade to pass any given point, he said.
Justice Minister Heather Stefanson told reporters Wednesday parade permit conditions are strictly a police call, with safety the primary concern.
"Certainly, it would be inappropriate for me to intervene in any decision made by the RCMP. It’s really up to the RCMP — they make those decisions for a reason."
Stefanson was unaware if any Conservative caucus members would be attending Steinbach Pride. Stefanson, who took part in Winnipeg Pride, said she is unable to go that day.
Meanwhile, Hanover School Division said Wednesday that it is still talking to Education Minister Ian Wishart about his offer to provide LGBTQQ* awareness training for trustees and staff.
McHale's family has filed a complaint with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission over Hanover trustees' refusal to allow classroom discussion of sexual identity issues.
The Hanover School Division also said there is no sign of any public discussion of the sexual identity issue so far at its June 29 public school board meeting.
"We continue to be in conversation with the minister’s office," said a division spokesman. "At this point there are no delegations scheduled for June 29, nor is there a specific agenda item on this topic scheduled for June 29."
Steinbach city council issued a statement Wednesday afternoon stating they have not "officially endorsed" the parade.
"Steinbach residents will decide for themselves whether they wish to attend this event," read part of the statement.
"Council believes that all people, including those who identify as LGBTQ, deserve to be treated with love and respect at all times. Council also recognizes the importance of respecting the rights of individuals and organizations who hold different beliefs from those in the LGBTQ community."
-with files from the Canadian Press