WINNIPEG — Pride Winnipeg is inviting police officers to march in its annual parade, but not in uniform.
The organization tells CTV Winnipeg that officers will be free to represent the police force by wearing WPS-branded clothing or carrying banners, but police cruisers and uniformed officers will not be part of the parade celebrating and supporting LGBTQ rights.
On-duty police officers in uniform will provide traffic control and security along the perimeter of the parade, to be held June 4.
The role of uniformed police officers during pride events has been the subject of debate since Toronto’s Pride Parade last summer, when Black Lives Matter temporarily halted the parade until organizers signed off on a number of demands.
One of the demands was to ban police floats and uniformed police officers from future parades, as Black Lives Matter argued some groups, particularly black and transgender people, do not feel safe around police officers.
The Winnipeg Police Service has not yet commented.
“Toronto was definitely the spark, but the decision and the process was a locally born decision,” said Jonathan Niemczak, president of Pride Winnipeg. “The whole process has tried to be as collaborative as possible.”
Pride Winnipeg spent 10 months consulting with community groups and launched an online survey. Niemczak said the group presented its findings to the Winnipeg Police Service.
Of the 600 respondents of its survey, Pride Winnipeg said nearly one-third of people “wanted no police involvement in the Pride Winnipeg Parade, or requested that police do not participate in uniform.”
Pride Winnipeg said a third of respondents were comfortable with uniformed police officers, but wanted firm commitments from the WPS to improve their relationship with the LGBTQ community.
The last third of respondents either had no strong views on the issue, or were comfortable with the current state of the police relationship.