The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) has completed its latest round of online and group community consultations and is looking to address key areas. 

VPS co-executive director Andrea Arnot says around 200 people participated online and in-person following the 2016 festival season. Recurring themes were community representation, education, police presence and how the VPS communicates about its activities. 

“One thing we saw was people felt like they didn’t want to attend Pride anymore because they felt it was just one giant party and there weren’t opportunities for bringing their friends and allies to learn about the local history, about struggles in years past in Vancouver,” Arnot says. 

In response, the 2017 festival will feature a “living library,” allowing members of the public to check out a local knowledge-holder at Pride events to hear and discuss queer history.

VPS also wants parade floats to improve representation of groups other than gay white males, Arnot says. As previously reported by Xtra, VPS is also planning to provide resources and sponsorship to events for specific marginalized groups holding alternative Pride season events.

Police participation received significant feedback, Arnot says.

“That ranges from ‘I will never come to Pride again if you ban the police’ to ‘if you don’t ban the police I will never come to Pride again,’ and everything in between,” she says. “So with those pieces we’ve reached out specifically to potentially marginalized groups and individuals, like the people of colour, indigenous, trans and dyke communities, to check in and get some feedback around that and it is an issue for people. We are working with [the Vancouver Police Department] and RCMP to dialogue and collaborate about how we can alter things to make thing work for people.”

Arnot says this dialogue includes, over the next month, asking the VPD to consider reducing the number of vehicles and marchers in the 2017 parade; reducing the number of officers wearing uniforms and carrying weapons; and asking the VPD to improve outreach in the community and participate in dialogue, with listening circles for example.

A meeting is tentatively planned for some time in March to hear the VPD’s reply. 

“Our board and myself and Kieran [Burgess] the executive director feel really strongly that the way to create positive social change is dialogue and collaboration, so that’s what we’re doing,” Arnot says.

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