Edmonton Pride’s Decision to Cancel All 2019 Pride Events is Horrifying
According to Global News, the board of directors of the Edmonton Pride Festival have voted to cancel Edmonton’s 2019 Pride Parade and Festival. In an email to its volunteers the board stated: “in light of the current political and social environment, it has been determined that any attempt to host a festival will not be successful.”
The email goes on to claim that the Pride Festival would not be able “to host a safe and enjoyable event this year.”
Following the release of this information, it came to light the decision was made as a result of tensions and political divisions within Edmonton’s Pride Festival. This is troubling and a major disappointment at when Pride as a political act is becoming increasingly important.
This announcement comes during the final week of Alberta’s provincial election in which the United Conservative Party is expected to win a majority. The party and its leader Jason Kenney have launched several attacks on the LGBTQ community in recent weeks. Most notably is Kenney’s plan to give principals and teachers the discretion to inform parents if their child is taking part in a Gay-Straight Alliance. This has the potential of outing LGBTQ youth without their permission and possibly putting them at risk.
Besides the current political climate in Alberta, Edmonton Pride has faced criticism for not acting on a call to ban uniformed police and military officers from participating in the Pride parade; a move that was taken by many Pride organizations across Canada to protest police discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Edmonton Pride’s decision to cancel pride festivities is not only regrettable, it is horrifying. This resolution comes at a time when the rights that generations of LGBTQ folks have fought for are under increasing threat. In Canada, Conservative governments in several provinces are attempting to rollback many legal protections. In Toronto, relations with the police have become increasingly tense after it came to light the homicide division failed to take the community’s fear of gay targeting serial killer seriously.
Similar trends are occurring in America and Europe. Events of recent years should be a reminder of how easily the waves of change can turn against our community.
Even more upsetting is that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. The Stonewall riots of 1969 saw the LGBTQ community of New York take part in violent protests against police raids on LGBTQ establishments. Stonewall marked the start of a huge change in the LGBTQ rights movement. It was a sign that the community would no longer accept subjugation and marginalization.
Within 20 years of Stonewall, homosexuality was decriminalized across much of the western world, and no longer classified as a mental disorder. Within 35 years, same-sex marriage appeared on the law books around the world. Now, here we are 50 years later and increasingly back in the line of fire.
The board of directors cited the current political and social environment as reasons to cancel the event. Sorry folks, but that is precisely the reason the event should and must take place. Do they think the brave folks at Stonewall 50 years ago would have tucked tail and gone home? Not all.
It is upsetting that the organization could not overcome their differences and deliver Pride. United we moved forward, divided we fall.
Now more than ever LGBTQ communities need to be visible and defiant. In these worrying times, we need to be on the streets being proud of who we are and refusing to go back in the closet. We must never be silenced and stop chanting that famous phrase: “we’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.”