The many events slated to take place bring together LGBTQ citizens and many others to celebrate the lives of those who traditionally have been condemned, chastised, attacked and indeed punished by governments and religions.
In a previous column I have mentioned developments that remain of great concern. As a matter of fact, divisions within the LGBTQ communities seem to be escalating. The situation at this point is divisive and threatens to lessen the positive progress made during the last few decades. If this continues, the members of the LGBTQ community in locations throughout Canada may be affected in a very negative way.
The following are the points, to date, that have brought us to this stage of concern. Firstly, last year’s Toronto Pride parade was interrupted for half an hour when the LGBTQ group, Black Lives Matter, protested because of police participation in the celebration. They feel, and with good reason, that the police have been unfairly targeted blacks through profiling and other measures.
This past January Pride Toronto adopted a list of demands issued by the city’s chapter of Black Lives Matter. City council may hold back financing because of the feud between Toronto Pride and the police. The annual grant of $260,000 is in addition to the $750,000 for services related to the celebrations. Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah says that celebrations will go on, no matter what.
The Vancouver Pride Society announced they have asked that police officers show up in fewer numbers and not be in uniform. The city’s chapter of Black Lives Matter asked police to voluntarily withdraw from the parade as “the presence of uniformed officers makes some minority groups feel unsafe.”
In Halifax, the police department has removed itself voluntarily from that city’s annual Pride Parade. The fact HRM Chief Blais will take part in the parade without uniform does not diminish police presence as he will display the force’s shiny emblem on his shirt.
In spite of what we are told police departments in the above-mentioned cities have not settled with the various Pride organizations and unless dialogue is established progress will not be a reality. One or the other must make a move toward healing the rift and establish understanding to result in a more civilized coexistence. The profiling must cease as it blatantly displays discrimination and if that is not forthcoming then the issue will surely exacerbate with no positive outcome.
Another issue is the Queer Arab Halifax complaint about Israeli advertising in the Halifax parade as a welcoming place for LGBTQ visitors. The conflict between the two nations must not interfere with the equality of LGBTQ citizens. We are aware of the pure hate between the Arab nations and Israel, but that does not mean that there must be war between LGBTQ people.
As an advocate for equality for all people for 40-odd years, I am truly concerned that with all the advances, we are taking steps back in time. Converse with a positive goal in mind. Do not lay blame, but reach out to each other. I assure you by increasing tensions the road to equality is not attainable. Silence is not golden. Dialogue is the answer to unity.
Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.