No political parties will be marching in Calgary’s Pride parade on Sunday, but NDP members of the legislature will be among those honoured as marshals.
Calgary Pride says the parade will be led by members of a group set up by the former NDP government to research ways to ban conversion therapy, a widely condemned practice meant to change a person’s sexual orientation through counselling or religious teaching.
The marshals include MLAs Janis Irwin and Nicole Goehring, along with academics, religious leaders and advocates.
“Acting as symbols of our community’s refusal to be silenced, and our unrelenting support of those subjected to this treatment, these individuals will lead the parade as a reminder that our voices carry weight, our community deserves to be heard, and that collectively we will not accept any practice that calls into question our inalienable right to exist,” Calgary Pride said in a release Wednesday.
The new United Conservative government is not supporting the group, which is continuing its work backed by the NDP caucus.
The UCP has said it condemns conversion therapy and would listen to any recommendations, but has added that the practice is already banned by all the relevant licensing bodies in the province.
Calgary Pride contended: “The recent suggestion that this practice is not happening in Alberta is not only untrue, but it also endangers the lives of vulnerable people who often have little power to stop it from happening.”
Calgary Pride announced last month that no political parties would be approved to march in the parade regardless of their record on LGBTQ issues.
It said that the NDP were the only party to pass muster based on a jury’s scores. But it also said that despite the party’s “monumental” support for the LGBTQ community, allowing only the NDP to march would send the wrong message.
“Some political parties would be unfairly perceived as against LGBTQ2S+ rights,” it said in a July release.
“Community members who did not vote for the NDP might see their place in our community as less-than.”
However, community groups were encouraged to invite politicians to march with them if they have “shown themselves to be true and unequivocal allies.” The politicians can wear whatever they want, but they can’t carry party signs or banners.
The New Democrats say they will march alongside the Centre for Sexuality, a community-based sexual health organization. Group president Pam Krause commended the NDP’s legislation to protect gay-straight alliances in schools. The UCP, saying they were too blunt an instrument, has since rolled back many of those measures.
UCP spokesman Harrison Fleming said it will be up to individual MLAs if they want to attend the parade as guests.
Calgary Liberal MP Kent Hehr wrote an open letter Wednesday decrying Pride’s position. He said it lumps true LGBTQ allies such as himself with politicians who just march to “tick a box.”
He said Pride has always been political and the focus should be on fighting for social justice and inclusion.
“Pride Calgary’s decision to forgo that time-honoured tradition is a mistake,” said Hehr, who has participated in the parade for 15 years.
“It’s a mistake because not all politicians or political parties treat this movement the same way. In turn, they should not be treated the same way.”
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press