Thoughts on Ottawa’s Capital Pride

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Each year around this time, as we lead up to Ottawa’s Capital Pride parade this Sunday, I feel this agitation to write about my feelings towards some militant faction of the LGBTTQIA community who feel that they’re the social justice warriors who know what’s good for the rest of us. Organizations that I, an openly gay male, have never even heard of begin to chime in and wade into the waters of controversy because they have some “moral and ethical responsibility” to shine a light on social injustice.

Last year a group of “activists” submitted a petition to Capital Pride organizers in an attempt to block LGBTory (The Rainbow Conservative of Canada), a gay conservative group to which I belong, because they felt the spelling of our name committed “trans-erasure” by co-opting the letter T for Tory (to read our statement on that issue, see here.) The result? LGBTory had more trans individuals marching with them than any other political party present. But that was so last year!

Being that we’re not in an election year, the focus has shifted to what these “activists” feel are the other “old guard, white bread, racists” in our community, the Ottawa Police Service. Now let me state my bias so it’s out in the open. I sat on the Ottawa Police Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Liaison Committee for nearly a decade and I did this because I felt, similar to my involvement with LGBTory, that the easiest way to change an organization is while you’re literally standing on the inside of their building. I’m proud of my time there, and I genuinely feel that we sparked some often contentious debates and in turn I know we influenced how the Ottawa Police dealt with members of the GLBTTQIA community, how they speak to us and how they now value our involvement. Some would disagree with me, but they’d be the people who weren’t sitting around the table.

OTTAWA’S PRIDE CRUISER

I’m not going to dive into Black Lives Matter and the motivations behind their movement, but I will say that through speaking with my friends in Diversity and Race relations for the Ottawa Police Service, I wasn’t overly shocked to learn BLM won’t meet with Ottawa Police. So now, an organization that has no desire to meet with their “oppressors,” and no desire to work towards a strategy for improvement, is trying to dictate policy for Capital Pride. Their request sounds simple enough. “We believe Pride celebrations and events are for everyone, and having off duty police in uniform limits those who can attend.”

Let me tell you what else limits those who can attend. The City of Ottawa has a by-law in place whereby events of more than 250 people require approval from the City’s Special Events Advisory Team (S.E.A.T.) which is comprised of many City departments such as bylaw enforcement, fire, paramedics, traffic, OC Transpo etc. It also includes Police. No event will be given a permit until all departments are satisfied. For example, Capital Pride will require bus diversions and OC Transpo would have to say “Yes, we’re fine with the proposed changes” and in turn Ottawa Police will have to say “Yes, we can provide paid duty officers to close streets and provide general security.” But what happens when officers refuse to sign up to work these events? What happens if officers feel unsafe or unwelcome? I think it’s safe to assume no event permit would be issued.

Capital Pride feels that BLM should be able to protest peacefully. I happen to agree. But I also think that if Capital Pride doesn’t want to stand up to bullies trying to strong arm their way into a celebration of inclusion by promoting exclusion, Matthew Skof, the President of the Police Association, should encourage his officers to not attend or take the paid duty and effectively stage their own protest in doing so. As for officers who want to march in the parade and aren’t being paid to be there; go ahead, march away. You represent the tolerance, respect, trust and love that I and many others have worked hard to establish with the Ottawa Police Service and I for one am very happy to have you there!

Alex Lewis
Ottawa

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