The Halifax Regional Police (HRP) will not be marching in this year’s Pride parade as “police officers are trying to put the community ahead of themselves,” said Constable Amit Parasram to The Signal.
The police decided to take a “step back” and “participate in more meaningful ways,” said Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais to reporters today.
The announcement comes in the midst of a national discussion about racism and policing.
In the summer of 2016, the Toronto Pride parade was delayed by Black Lives Matter protesters who had a list of demands for the Toronto Pride organization. As the CBC reported, one of those demands was for Toronto Pride to ban police floats from the parade.
In January, HRP released data suggesting that black Haligonians were three times more likely to be stopped by police than residents who weren’t black.
HRP said they have not received any specific demands from local minority groups regarding their parade participation, but their decision was influenced by tensions outside of Halifax.
“What happens elsewhere has an effect here,” said Blais.
Halifax Pride executive director Adam Reid echoed these sentiments to The Signal.
“Clearly, it was a matter that we were going to have to address,” said Reid. “Pride Toronto’s issues had been making headlines (and the) police are aware of those concerns.”
This will be the first time in over a decade the HRP have not walked in the Pride parade.
Blais said that while officers were a “bit disappointed” as “many members have walked in Pride,” the decision was not something that HRP was pressured into.
“Let me be very clear,” he said. “This was a decision that we made in consultation with Halifax Pride.”
While HRP will continue to be at Pride events for security reasons, Reid said that they are also working on ways for the police to participate in community-building events outside of the parade.
“I would love to see the police leading some sort of talk about … the history of police and Pride,” he said.
Police will also be allowed to participate in the event as civilians in plain clothes.
Pride has not yet talked to the RCMP about their involvement in the parade, but they say the discussion is coming.
HRP and Halifax Pride say they believe this is the first time a police department in Canada has taken this approach.
“I would hope that other cities’ police are as thoughtful and reflective on this issue,” Reid told The Signal.