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Premier Clark and BC Liberals skip Pride parade

"I just assumed that she would be on board": Coolen

"It was, once again, an incredible celebration of the diversity of what our community is all about, says Vancouver Pride Society president Ken Coolen. Credit: Sergei Bachlakov photo

Rainbows, colourful floats and dazzling costumes stretched through Vancouver’s West End as an estimated 600,000 spectators packed the 2.5 kilometre route to view more than 150 entries in the 2011 Pride parade on July 31.

Local weather forecasts had predicted rain and clouds earlier in the week, but after a sudden burst of showers the clouds dissipated Sunday morning and the sun shone brightly.

Vancouver Pride Society president Ken Coolen says this parade was one of the smoothest in recent memory.

“To the best of my knowledge, it actually finished on time for the first time in a very long time,” he says.

“It was, once again, an incredible celebration of the diversity of what our community is all about.”

The Dykes on Bikes officially launched the parade at noon, dispelling earlier speculation that they might be missing in action this year. (Though a pre-parade contingent of several dozen Outgames athletes and grand marshal Joan-E preceded them.)

The Knights of Malta flag-bearers came next, followed closely by First Nations groups and grand marshals Bill Siksay and Pat Rocco, with AIDS Vancouver co-founder Bob Tivey honoured posthumously.

The Trans Alliance Society, the Dyke March organizers, New Westminster Pride, the Vancouver Police Department, the mayor and city council marched next in a stream of entries that would continue for more than two hours.

Roughly a quarter of the 151 registered parade entries were businesses and corporations. The rest were community and advocacy groups, AIDS organizations, not-for-profits, unions, and athletic and religious organizations.

Celebrities and Oasis Lounge had entries, but many of the Davie St bars chose not to march for the second year in a row. Last year the PumpJack Pub, Fountainhead and Numbers didn’t participate in the parade, citing high entry fees and privacy concerns around income information requested on the Pride Society’s entry form.

Celebrities’ promotions manager James Steck is undeterred by those issues. “It’s one of our traditions; we look forward to it every year,” he says.

The Health Initiative for Men (HIM) and community mainstay Little Sister’s Bookstore also didn’t appear in this year’s parade, though Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva marched with the City of Vancouver’s gay advisory committee.

Deva says a staff member’s unexpected illness left the bookstore unable to put a float together in time.

“We were really short-staffed, so we just had to give it up, and we did it at the last minute very regretfully and certainly intend to be back in it next year,” Deva assures. “That was not a statement against the parade or the way it was organized.”

Executive director Wayne Robert says HIM decided to focus its presence at the post-parade festival, since its resources are also stretched thin. “We really wanted to spend time, quality time, with people and engage them and talk to them,” Robert says.

Municipal, provincial and federal politicians of all ideological stripes were represented; however, Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals were notably missing. 

Coolen says he had assumed that Clark would be the first premier in 10 years to participate and was surprised at the Liberals’ no-show. He adds that in previous years, Clark had been instrumental in involving CKNW with the parade.

“When she won the election I just assumed that she would be on board,” he says.

A statement from the premier’s office says Clark was on holiday with her family away from Metro Vancouver and was unable to attend.

“It is unfortunate that BC Liberal MLAs were not able to attend this year’s parade, but we continue to support and celebrate the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities’ contributions to British Columbia,” writes spokesperson Trevor Halford.

BC NDP MLAs were out in force, with Vancouver-West End’s Spencer Chandra Herbert, Vancouver-Kensington’s Mable Elmore, NDP Leader Adrian Dix and his entourage.

Surrey’s Kwantlen Polytechnic University students and faculty marched in the parade for the first time. Kwantlen Pride liaison Lydia Luk was quick to distance the university from negative comments made against the parade on Twitter by a Kwantlen instructor on the eve of Pride.

“That tweet was one individual’s own personal views,” says Luk.

“It’s been great working with the Kwantlen faculty and school to be able to march with the float, and with a huge number of people, to show support. We had a great turnout and it was a lot of fun.”

Vancouver Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid — whose Toronto counterpart sparked a censorship battle last year — marched for the second year in a row, though their contingent was noticeably smaller than the year previous.

Jessica Giang had planned to march with YouthCo and CampOUT but was sidelined after she injured her leg Saturday night at the Ace of Base concert.

She watched with a gaggle of her friends near the corner of Barclay and Denman streets.

“I always find the parade inspiring,” she says. “Some people complain about too many corporations getting involved, but I think it’s inspiring to see all of our straight allies marching hand in hand with their gay and lesbian coworkers.”