ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The Pride committee in St. John's, N.L., has reversed course and invited uniformed police officers to march in the city's Pride parade this July.
As police forces across Canada face restrictions or bans at Pride events, St. John's Pride is now welcoming uniformed Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and RCMP officers.
Last July, the RNC said it would play a "less visible role'' at the Pride parade in Newfoundland's capital than it had in prior years, saying the force would offer traffic support but uniformed officers would not march in the procession.
The decision came at the request of Pride event organizers, who had encouraged officers to take part in the proceedings while off-duty and not in uniform in an effort to make the event "more accessible to all.'' The organization stressed that uniformed police would not be turned away from the parade, but encouraged officers to represent their unit in other ways like wearing T-shirts or carrying banners.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary police officers march in the 2014 St. John's Pride Parade. (Photo: Twitter/RNC)
St. John's Pride said in a newsletter this week that organizers had met with members of the RNC and Memorial University's Black Students' Association last week and sent two surveys to organizations for visible minorities and to the gay, lesbian and transgender community.
The group says based on the survey results, it was agreed that the organization and police would build on the ``meaningful progress'' it has made with police while ensuring the comfort of all of its members at Pride events.
"We look forward to continuing our positive relationship with St. John's Pride,'' RNC Chief William Janes said in a statement included in the newsletter. ``Our previous participation in Pride parades has been very positive and we look forward to this summer's events.''
In a Facebook post Tuesday, Pride organizers thanked the RNC, RCMP, organizations representing visible minorities, and the community.
Halifax's police service said in February that it will not participate in this year's Pride parade amid a "national debate'' about police involvement in such events, while organizers behind Vancouver's Pride Parade have suggested officers show up in fewer numbers and leave their uniforms at home.
Pride Toronto members voted to ostensibly ban official police floats from marches and parades in January, adopting a list of demands put forward by that city's chapter of Black Lives Matter.
The union representing Toronto's police officers in April urged the city to pull its annual Pride grant. A committee representing LGBTQ officers said it would be unacceptable for the city to give $260,000 to an event that excludes certain municipal employees.
Pride Toronto said individual LGBTQ officers were still welcome to march in the parade.
St. John's Pride Week will run July 10 to 16.
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