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Winnipeg Pride debate goes city-wide

Local daily paper asks readers if Pride should "tone things down"

MORE GENITALIA! Drag queen Jenny Talia at Winnipeg Pride 2008. Credit: photo courtesy of Bob Burgess and Brent Young

Winnipeg’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, the Free Press, is asking readers to go online and vote on this question: “Should Winnipeg’s Pride parade tone things down?”

So far, the survey has generated more interest than recent polls about the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Manitoba flood. At last count, the “Yes” side was winning by a large margin.

The web poll coincides with an article on page two of the Free Press’ March 30 edition about the Winnipeg Pride committee. As first reported by Xtra.ca earlier this month, the committee added a warning to this year’s float registration form that says “We would like to remind all entrants that Winnipeg Pride is a family-friendly event.” The decision to add the warning came after Winnipeg Police received an anonymous complaint about last year’s parade. No one on the committee knows the details of the complaint, though, and police refuse to give any information.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press article, the words “family friendly” are no longer being used by the Pride committee. Barb Burkowski, the chair of the committee, is quoted as saying that the parade is now being described as an “all-ages” event.

But that’s news to the committee’s parade coordinator. When contacted by Xtra.ca, Alex Espinosa said he didn’t know what Burkowski was talking about. He said he was happy that the issue is getting mainstream media coverage, though. “They’re talking about our Pride,” Espinosa said. “That’s good, at least.”

Marie-Line Lacerte, the Pride committee member who took the police’s call and reported the anonymous complaint to her fellow committee members, told Xtra.ca earlier this month that the “family-friendly” warning was aimed at so-called “extremists” like “drag queens and butch women,” as well as people going nude.

But in the Free Press, Burkowski insisted that drag queens and butch women are welcome at the June 14 event. She defended the warning by saying, “When police officers mention something to you, it’s probably best to acknowledge it — without, by any means, crushing the creativity or sexuality of anyone — that’s the driving force of our parade.”

Espinosa told Xtra.ca that his top priority for the parade is safety and his second priority is having a good time. He doesn’t think the committee’s warning — whatever it is — will affect the event. “I think people are just going to ignore what we’re saying and go ahead and do what they want,” he said.

IS NUDITY AT PRIDE ILLEGAL?

All the Winnipeg Pride committee members that Xtra.ca interviewed said they’re against nudity in the Pride parade because it’s illegal.

But it’s not — as long as you follow the same Supreme Court ruling that saved the Totally Naked Toronto Men, in 2002.

That year, seven guys from TNT Men were busted for marching nude at Toronto Pride.

At first, the bare facts of their case looked bad. Sections 173 and 174 of the Criminal Code prohibit nudity in public places, where the intent is to “insult or offend.”

But an earlier Supreme Court ruling saved TNT Men’s skins. It determined that to be nude in the eyes of Canadian law, a person must be completely naked. The TNT Men, however, were wearing socks and shoes.

The Crown dropped the case and decided not to pursue charges.