The 2017 Edmonton Pride Festival is fast approaching and we couldn’t be more excited. For many, Pride in Edmonton feels like the unofficial start of summer. We can’t wait to see many returning faces show up proudly to party and to protest, and to see many new faces experiencing the pride parade and festival for the very first time.
As we finalize our plans for this year we would like to give everyone that is invested in the direction of Pride in Edmonton some insight into our decisions regarding the participation and prioritization of entries in this year’s parade.
Outside of our local festival, developments locally, nationally and around the world have made Pride again feel very political. Here in Alberta, the rights of our queer youth to form and attend GSAs are being repeatedly threatened by close-minded school boards. Last year during our local Pride, a shooting at a Latinx event at a gay bar in Orlando took 49 young people and injured 53 more. The tumultuous 2016 US Election legitimized a hateful public discourse within the USA and, unfortunately, beyond its borders into Canada and around the world. Many hard won battles for human and civil rights now appear to be under threat again.
Last summer’s Black Lives Matter Toronto protest at Toronto’s 2016 Pride Parade was a wake up call to all Prides in Canada. Here at Edmonton Pride, we have taken this as an opportunity to reexamine how queer people of colour experience marginalization within our own city and festival. It has given us a chance to consider whether Edmonton Pride is doing enough to give marginalized members of our community meaningful opportunities to express themselves with their own voices. It has led to us engaging in a more deliberate dialogue within our own diverse queer community. It has led to us looking at the Edmonton’s queer community’s relationship with the police and the military and it has made us question the role of the police and the military in our parade.
Over the past year we have looked to our community for guidance on these issues. Over 400 people responded to our community survey after the 2016 Pride Festival, and identified many barriers to access in how our festival is run.
We also hosted several community meetings including a public town hall, collaborative meetings with other LBGTQ2S+ focused community organizations in Edmonton and a sharing and listening event exclusively for QTIPOC run by our POC board members. We have taken particular care in attempting to reach out to the voices that get heard and amplified least at Pride Festivals across Canada, such as those of our trans, indigenous, differently-abled, QTIPOC, religious and otherwise marginalized and underserved LGBTQ2S+ community members.
We recognize that there are voices we still have not heard and conversations that still have not occurred and we look forward to continuing to look to our community to guide this festival going forward.
After significant consultation from all sides, we have come to the conclusion that in Edmonton it would be wrong to ask the police and military to stay away from the Pride Parade in 2017. The Edmonton Police Service, RCMP, and Armed Forces have made significant efforts locally to work with our LGBTQ2S+ communities. We recognize that there is still work to be done and we want to provide encouragement for this work to continue by fostering relationships and understanding between these groups and our own community.
We will be asking these groups to reflect on how their entries can be respectful to the experiences of all attendees of the 2017 pride parade. Specifically, we are asking police and military parade applicants to reexamine their entries to remove all armoured, tactical and other enforcement vehicles and for all 2017 parade entries to refrain from the use of any type of siren. These changes are based on feedback from our community and they are welcome changes.
We will also be providing opportunities for the Edmonton Police Service, RCMP, Canadian Armed Forces and other entries that could be seen as controversial to provide space during the festival for listening and community building through festival booths, public meetings and other spaces for the LGBTQ2S+ community to provide feedback.
We want to thank you for your support of the Edmonton Pride Festival. This year we’ve begun to reframe the way we think of the role of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society. We are attempting to be a framework for supporting and engaging our community, not the one voice of Pride for the city. This means if you have feedback or ideas, we want to hear them. We know that this decision may not be the one you were hoping for but we hope it is a decision you can support.
If you would like to provide feedback, volunteer on a steering committee, find out about joining our volunteer board of directors, or just want to say hi, contact us at email@example.com
In love and solidarity,
Edmonton Pride Festival Board of Directors