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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

Keep Pride political, but keep politicians out of it

It's time to stop paying attention to the non-attendance of conservative politicians at Edmonton's Pride parade, says columnist Danielle Paradis.

The discussion over which leaders are marching and which ones aren’t distracts from the real purpose of Pride, says columnist Danielle Paradis.

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski/Metro

The discussion over which leaders are marching and which ones aren’t distracts from the real purpose of Pride, says columnist Danielle Paradis.

Every June politicians in Edmonton have the same debate: to march in the Pride parade or to cite “scheduling conflicts,” instead. 

The non-attendance of most conservative politicians at the Pride parade has become a yearly scandal for the city. Especially since their behaviour stands in stark contrast to the boa-clad NDP caucus bumping their way along the parade route.    

Frankly, I’m tired of listening to this fight. 

The discussion over which leaders are marching and which ones aren’t distracts from the real purpose of Pride. For years, people have been demanding that politicians attend Pride as some sort of litmus test of their homophobia. But what does that give us? 

Remember that Pride is extremely useful to politicians. They attend so long as it expresses a version of queerness that they find acceptable.

We need to stop demanding that politicians attend Pride. Not because the event isn’t political, but because it needs to remain so. 

After all, the history of the Pride parade is a history of protests.

Like the Stonewall riot in the US and Toronto, the Pride parade in Edmonton began in protests of a police raid on a gay bathhouse in the 80s. 

The first festival in 1980 had fewer than 75 people but now the attendance is in the thousands and is sponsored by local corporate giants like Stantec and ATB.  

Rather than giving politicians a cheap photo op to demonstrate their inclusivity, we should demand that they show their support by making our laws more inclusive. 

They can start with support for Bill C-16, passed by the Senate Thursday, which is intended to add gender identity and gender expression to the national Human Rights Act.

In a world where gay men in Chechnya are being put into concentration camps and tortured it’s important to remember that for many LGTBQ people around the world, there’s still a long way to go, and the parade is more than a rainbow-coloured street party.  

If a political party and its members spew hatred about LGBTQ people all year, why do we want them tolerating us for a photo? As Thomas Hardy once wrote, “If an offense come out of the truth, better is it that the offense come than that the truth be concealed.”

Yes, let’s keep Pride political, but keep the politicians out of it.

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