CALGARY — The leader of Alberta’s United Conservative Party says banning police and military personnel from Edmonton’s Pride parade is regrettable and should be reconsidered.
“The military has made great efforts to be inclusive in this respect and there’s a lot of proud gay and lesbian soldiers and police officers,” Jason Kenney at an event in Calgary Monday. ”They deserve to be able to celebrate their service to our communities and to Canada without being attacked and marginalized.”
Edmonton’s Pride parade ground to a halt for more than half an hour on Saturday when demonstrators, who were upset that police officers were allowed to march in the event, blocked its route.
The protesters demanded police, RCMP and military members be banned from marching in future parades.
The Edmonton Pride Festival Society said that it agreed to the demands and neither police nor military members will march in the parade until all community members feel safe with their presence.
“It’s unfortunate that they let a tiny group, a fringe group, kind of hijack that agenda. I think it should be about inclusivity and respect for all Canadians, especially those who serve in the uniform,” said Kenney.
“It’s regrettable that any organization would attack those who serve in the uniform of the police or military who risk their lives to defend the rest of us every day. The police and military deserve our highest respect and I would hope they would reconsider that.”
A decision to allow police officers to march, but not in uniform, followed meetings between the society, Edmonton police and RCMP that were initiated after police vehicles were restricted from participating in the 2017 parade.
Officers were given the OK to take part in the parade this year, but in T-shirts instead of their uniforms.
The society explained at the time that in many communities, police enforcement agencies were seen to make marginalized people feel unsafe.
The Edmonton Police Service said it was disappointed by the latest decision.
“While the June 9th decision to exclude the Edmonton Police Service from marching in the Pride parade is difficult to understand and disappointing, we nonetheless will fully accept this decision,” media spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard said in a statement.
Last month, organizers of the event rejected the United Conservative Party application to march in the parade, saying Kenney’s conservatives didn’t meet criteria that includes connecting with the Pride community and sharing its policies and values.
Kenney attended a United Conservative Party Pride pancake breakfast near the parade route instead.