June 15, 2019

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Unclear if police will march in Pride parade

Organizers weigh concerns event is too white

A police car in the 2016 Pride parade (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

A police car in the 2016 Pride parade (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2017 (772 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One month before Winnipeg’s 30th annual Pride parade, organizers again find themselves embroiled in controversy over who will march in the event.

Uniformed Winnipeg Police Service officers and vehicles have participated in the Pride parade for several years, but it’s not certain if they will be allowed to march in the June 4 event.

Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak said police participation has been the subject of debate after last June’s Pride Toronto parade was interrupted by Black Lives Matter demonstrators protesting against the inclusion of uniformed police.

“Toronto was definitely a spark for this,” Niemczak said of the June 24, 2016, incident. “But it’s been an ongoing dialogue with community groups since July.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/5/2017 (772 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One month before Winnipeg’s 30th annual Pride parade, organizers again find themselves embroiled in controversy over who will march in the event.

Uniformed Winnipeg Police Service officers and vehicles have participated in the Pride parade for several years, but it’s not certain if they will be allowed to march in the June 4 event.

Pride Winnipeg president Jonathan Niemczak said police participation has been the subject of debate after last June’s Pride Toronto parade was interrupted by Black Lives Matter demonstrators protesting against the inclusion of uniformed police.

"Toronto was definitely a spark for this," Niemczak said of the June 24, 2016, incident. "But it’s been an ongoing dialogue with community groups since July."

Niemczak refused to identify which local groups had concerns over police participation or what those concerns are, but he cautioned against drawing any parallels between Winnipeg’s situation and Toronto’s.

Participants in the 2016 Pride parade. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Participants in the 2016 Pride parade. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"There are many concerns, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying any of them just because they’re not coming from me. They’re coming from other groups and I can’t speak for those groups," Niemczak said. "It’s a very, very complicated issue."

Representatives of Queer People of Colour Winnipeg declined to be interviewed for this story.

Pride Winnipeg came under heavy criticism in the fall from some groups — transgender, people of colour, indigenous — who felt Winnipeg’s Pride parade and activities were "too white," that their members weren’t accepted at the parade or festival events and that they hadn’t been reflected in promotional material.

Pride Winnipeg issued a public apology in October and promised to make changes.

In addition to providing escort duty and blocking intersections, uniformed officers have marched in the parade since at least 2012.

A senior WPS spokesman said police want to march in this year’s parade and are waiting for a decision from organizers.

Uniformed members of the RCMP and local police walked in Steinbach's first-ever Pride parade in July 2016. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)</p>

Uniformed members of the RCMP and local police walked in Steinbach's first-ever Pride parade in July 2016. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

"We understand the people from Pride are in a difficult situation and, as much as we would be disappointed if we were not allowed to participate, we would continue to maintain a strong relationship with the people from Pride moving forward," said Insp. Gord Friesen, head of the WPS community support division.

Police participation in Pride events seems to be a controversial subject across the country. Niemczak said every Pride organization is going through, or has had, the same debate.

Toronto Pride, acting on the complaint from Black Lives Matter, prohibited uniformed officers from participating this year. Niemczak said Halifax Police decided they won’t be marching in this year’s parade, while Pride organizations in Vancouver and Edmonton agreed to allow police to march.

The Pride committee in St. John’s, N.L., this year reversed course and invited uniformed police officers to march in the city’s Pride parade this July. Last year, they asked only off-duty officers to take part out of uniform.

"Every Pride across Canada is currently reviewing this and making their own calls as to what police participation will look like in each of their parades," Niemczak said.

"We’re trying to be as sensitive as possible, and as such we’re not releasing any information with regards to what those discussions are, even what our inkling is right now, until a final decision is rendered, which won’t be for a couple more weeks."

Niemczak said Pride Winnipeg circulated a survey to community groups, which in turn distributed to its members, asking whether they’ve had any interaction with the WPS, if those experiences were positive or negative and gauging support for continued police participation in the annual parade

"We had 600 respondents to that survey," Niemczak said. "We’re still sifting through the data and reviewing the data with our community partners, and hoping that will assist us in coming to a decision."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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