UPDATE: Aug 7, noon
BC Premier Christy Clark took a break from her vacation Aug 5 to fly to Vancouver and meet with Pride organizers prior to the parade but didn’t stay to march, her press secretary tells Xtra.
“She couldn’t be in the parade,” Mike Morton says. “To get her flight back, she had to be back at a certain time.”
“She wanted to go. She felt it was really important to go, but she couldn’t stay the whole time,” he says. “You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.”
Morton says parade organizers were “well aware of the fact she was going to be there in that capacity and she couldn’t stay for the whole parade.”
There was a Liberal contingent in the parade, Morton points out, although its members were not well received by some spectators along the route.
Vancouver Pride Society president Tim Richards confirms that Clark met with organizers before the parade and had advised them ahead of time that she wouldn’t be staying to march.
“Unfortunately, the premier had a schedule conflict and was not able to participate in the parade,” Richards says.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix marched in the parade, flanked by two of his openly gay party members, MLAs Spencer Chandra Herbert and Mike Farnworth, and surrounded by other supporters within the party.
Dix’s chief of staff, Stephen Howard, tells Xtra two Liberal MLAs marched in the parade: North Vancouver-Seymour MLA Jane Thornthwaite and Minister of Advanced Education Naomi Yamamoto, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
“On our side, Adrian and at least half a dozen MLAs marched the full route,” Howard says.
Sun, Aug 5
Hundreds of thousands of onlookers cheered on Vancouver’s 34th annual Pride parade participants Aug 5, including Miss Universe Canada’s first transgender contestant and, for the first time, a Canucks player.
Dykes on Bikes revved up their motors at noon to once again lead the parade on a hot, sunny Sunday.
Vancouver Canucks centre Manny Malhotra says sports broke the colour and gender barriers and must now rid itself of homophobia.
“Athletes should be judged on their athletic ability and talent and nothing else,” Malhotra says, walking with Patrick Burke, cofounder of the You Can Play campaign, and the local gay hockey club, The Cutting Edges.
Conspicuously absent for the second year in a row was Premier Christy Clark, though a small contingent of her party, the BC Liberals, walked in the parade. Some reports suggest Clark was at the parade somewhere, but she was not marching with the Liberals on Denman St. Xtra is investigating.
Also absent was Mayor Gregor Robertson, who left on a business mission to the London Olympics after proclaiming Pride Week at city hall on July 30. “I’m a little heartbroken to miss this year,” he told Xtra, “but I’m sure it will be as epic as past years.”
A sizeable float from the City of Vancouver continued without him, flanked by significant contingents from the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver school board.
Parade director Tim Kraumanis says one new element this year is the reflection float, which replaced the moment of silence. “We turned it into remembering someone from the past or celebrating how far we’ve come or whatever you want,” he says.
Early on, two marchers dressed as Bert and Ernie held a marriage certificate and kissed. Last year, an online petition supported the pair’s marriage, but Sesame Street spokespeople said, “Bert and Ernie are best friends … and do not have a sexual orientation.”
The parade included little nudity. One of the few nudists, Pat Britten, says the Pacific-Canadian Association of Nudists doesn’t participate, so he goes on his own.
The other veteran nudist is pro-foreskin activist Glen Callender, who marched in Toronto’s Pride parade on Canada Day. “I expect the Vancouver police to be every inch as foreskin-friendly as their Toronto counterparts,” he says.
The parade had 136 entries, 15 fewer entries than last year’s parade. Organizers left large gaps between some of the floats.
There was such a huge gap between Vanpoly and MP Hedy Fry’s contingent that many onlookers thought the parade was over, leaving in droves along Beach Ave as parade volunteers yelled, “The parade’s not over yet. The parade’s not over yet.” Nearly two-thirds of the parade followed Fry.
Participants and onlookers had as many reasons for coming as there were floats.
Kerri Lanaway has lived in Vancouver for three years but never participated. The night before the parade, she decided to join the Dykes on Bikes contingent. “I’m queer, and I wanted to support our community,” she says. “I’m totally excited.”
Onlooker Cameren Ballam, 14, says, “It’s about being yourself and accepting everyone.”
April Woodward, 17, accompanying a gay friend, says her grandmother came out a few years ago. Pride “is just like celebrating love no matter who you are.”
Laura Gastl, 16, came out just two years ago. At Pride, “You just feel accepted and respected,” she says.
Gastl’s friend Thea Tambogoon, 17, says “Pride makes me feel comfortable with the community.”
Dylan Barnes, 18, marched for the second time with the queer youth group Surrey Youth Alliance. “It’s a day to go out to enjoy all the energy that’s poured out, the thousands of people that come down,” he says. “It’s a day for expression and self-expression. It’s a day to be yourself.”
“It’s being who you are. It’s being able to be who you are,” agrees parade grand marshal Bill Monroe, 78, dressed in his signature role as Queen Elizabeth II.
Asked how long he has attended the Pride parade, Monroe asks, “How old is Pride? Just minus about three [years].”
Vance McFadyen, 69, came out at 28 and has “been coming to the parade since it started.” He was nervous at first just watching, but “the more support you get the less nervous you become. I’m not nervous anymore.” This year he marched for the second time.
First-time participant Gordon Havelaar, 23, marching with the Vancouver Frontrunners running club, says the parade is “a chance to walk and be with other queers, whether male, female or transgendered.”
Matt Devlin, 20, marched for the first time to join others in a group he volunteers with, Our City of Colours, which reaches out to Vancouver’s Chinese, Iranian, Punjabi and other communities to foster a greater understanding of gay people.
Others came just for the fun. Tim St Amand says, “Pride to me is shirtless boys and beer and good times with friends.”