This letter was first presented at a meeting to Vancouver Pride Society in February 2017 and is now being released publicly on May 11, 2017.
Open Letter to the Vancouver Pride Society,
We write this letter as LGBTQIA2+ organizations and individuals and anti-racist community groups with majority queer and trans membership based on unceded Indigenous Coast Salish territories.
We write to support Black Lives Matter-Vancouver in their calls for the Vancouver Pride Society to remove any and all presence of uniformed police officers (VPD and RCMP) from marching as an institution in the Vancouver Pride Parade in 2017 and onward.
We expect and understand that people will have different perspectives and experiences with respect to police participation in Pride. However, this is not about reaching unanimity on the issue; it’s about the Vancouver Pride Society making a decision that enables all queer and trans people to feel safe and welcome at Pride.
We ask, If the police were not to march as an institution in Pride, would anyone feel emotionally triggered or physically threatened by their absence? Probably not.
We affirm Black Lives Matter who are echoing a longstanding call, locally and across North America, when they say the inclusion of police as an institution and increasing police militarization in the Pride Parade disproportionately impacts some of the most marginalized members of our communities; particularly Black queer and trans peoples who face daily institutional and societal anti-Black racism including by police.
This is not just an issue in the United States. Across Canada the violence of law enforcement and criminal justice system is well-documented. Indigenous peoples especially women, girls, two-spirit and trans people are over-policed and under-protected. Indigenous women are the fastest growing prison population in Canada with incarceration rates that have increased by 100 percent since 2001, while settler-colonial violence continues daily. There are also 70 per cent more Black Canadians in federal prison than there were 10 years ago. Police carding, surveillance, arrest and detention of Black peoples is an ongoing injustice across Canada, alongside the (often overlapping) targeting of Indigenous, homeless, poor, Muslim, trans, sex worker, disabled, racialized and undocumented communities.
We write this letter to support Black Lives Matter because we share their desire to have all queer and trans people feel safe and included in Pride. Many of us as older racialized queers have fought for decades for the Vancouver Pride Parade to be inclusive, and Black Lives Matter-Vancouver's contribution is part of this ongoing struggle.
We therefore strongly encourage Vancouver Pride Society to meaningfully engage and take leadership from Black queer and trans people in this regard.
Thank you for your attention and thank you for listening.