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Vancouver Pride won’t vet signs

But Coolen says 'offensive' signs could be a challenge

Members of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid march in the 2009 Toronto Pride Parade. Credit: Peter Bevan photo

 The president of the Vancouver Pride Society says his organization has no plans to vet signage to be displayed during the Pride parade.

Ken Coolen says instilling a policy of reviewing signage prior to the festivities would be out of step with the spirit of the event.

“I would say that we are a celebration of diversity, and to allow that diversity within our parade is what the purpose is all about.”

But Coolen also says there is a fine line between accepting diversity and allowing signs with messages deemed “offensive” in the parade.

“I think that the two need to be sort of carefully monitored,” he says, adding: “We’ve never had that challenge.”

Coolen says he could not think of any specific messages that might constitute “offensive,” but mentions that “blatant vulgarity” and “racial slurs” would fall under its umbrella.

Coolen’s comments are in response to Pride Toronto’s short-lived but much decried sign-vetting policy. In March, the Toronto organization introduced a policy that would have allowed an ethics committee to evaluate signage prior to the parade. After the gay community expressed outrage, Pride Toronto quickly reversed its decision.

But Pride Toronto has no intention of letting anyone march in the parade under a banner “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid.” That, at least, is what the festival’s organizers have been telling city officials, according to documents released by the city.

“In my understanding of the Toronto situation, it was perceived as a racial slur,” Coolen says. “If we had queers marching against another racial group, then that would be something that might be a challenge.”

If such a challenge came up during Vancouver Pride, Coolen says the issue would be taken to the board of directors, as well as to different community groups to get their views on the matter.

“It would be about looking for a scope of opinions.”