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Military marching okay without the uniform

ALL DRESSED UP. Canadian Armed Forces personnel can wear any attire they chose in a Pride parade -- except their uniform.

Canadian soldiers are free to participate in Pride parades but, unfortunately for those with a military fetish, they can’t wear their uniforms while doing so.

“Somebody can participate unofficially, they just can’t march in uniform,” says Commander Denise LaViolette of Public Affairs Office of the Department Of National Defence. “But there’s nothing that prevents an individual from identifying themselves as a member of the military. If they want to put a sign on their back, saying ‘I’m a member of the military,’ they can do that.”

According to LaViolette, the military doesn’t have any specific policies for Pride parades, but soldiers who march individually in any parade are prohibited from wearing uniforms. Individuals are allowed to wear uniforms as part of a nonparade event, such as a wedding, if they obtain the permission of a commanding officer.

“Members can only participate in uniform in an event in what’s called a formed military unit. A unit is normally a minimum of 30 people. A unit somewhere will get a request to participate in an event, in parades or community days. They’ll look at the event, at what’s going on militarily.”

LaViolette says one of the considerations would be the nature of the event.

“The uniform can’t be relegated to the role of a costume. In Mardi Gras, for example, we wouldn’t authorize it.”

This summer, the Royal Navy in the UK permitted about 40 sailors to wear uniforms in London’s EuroPride parade, considered to be the first time any military organization allowed uniformed participation at a Pride event.

Gay men and Lesbians were barred from the Canadian armed forces until October 1992, when the policy was overturned after a court ruling on a challenge under the Charter Of Rights And Freedoms.

LaViolette says the armed forces do not keep track of how many gay men and lesbians are members of the military.

“We can’t, because of the Canadian Human Rights Act. But sometimes we have quality of life surveys, and some people self-identify.”

The armed forces are allowed to collect such data only on four designated groups: women, native Canadians, members of a visible minority and people with disabilities. However, the information can be collected only through voluntary self-identification on military censuses, and there are strict controls on how this information can be accessed and used.