2 min

Winnipeg Pride wants parade to be “family friendly”

Shouldn't portray gays as "extremists": past chair

THINK OF THE CHILDREN! The Winnipeg Pride committee is advertising a "family friendly" parade this year, after police received one anonymous complaint about last year's event (pictured). Credit: Kelsey Clifford photo

The Winnipeg Pride committee is warning participants at this year’s Pride parade to keep it “family friendly,” after an unidentified person lodged a complaint with local police.

Marie-Line Lacerte, the chair of last June’s event, said an officer called her shortly after the parade to say that a member of the public had complained about it. She told the Pride committee about the call, and as a result, the committee subsequently voted to add the following disclaimer to this year’s float registration: “We would like to remind all entrants that Winnipeg Pride is a family friendly event.”

No one on the Pride committee knows who made the complaint, or how they complained, or even what the complaint was about. Lacerte never asked for details when the officer called her, and the police refuse to give details to Xtra.

Still, Lacerte stands by the committee’s decision to advertise a “family friendly” parade. “We have to remember that this is a public event,” she said. “Part of the parade is to show people we’re not extremists, we’re real people.”

When asked what she meant by “extremists,” Lacerte responded, “Drag queens and butch women.” She added that it’s important to show the people of Winnipeg that there are “mainstream” queer community members, too, like “lawyers and doctors.”

Lacerte, a member of the Pride committee for 10 years, said the committee has never turned away any floats. But, she added, “We always keep an eye out.” Three years ago, she said they asked a “crudely-dressed” man to go home and change. “His package was hanging out,” said Lacerte.

She also suggested that the committee consider a broader definition of the word “nudity,” such as mesh nylons on drag queens. “Is this nudity for you and I?” she asked. “No, but maybe for somebody in the mainstream it is.”

Another member of the Pride committee, parade coordinator Alex Espinosa, said, “I’m very liberal with a lot of things. I’m not against nudity but I want to make sure we get another parade permit.” In terms of heeding the police’s call, he said, “I kind of understand them. There are kids there.”

Word of Pride’s new “family friendly” warning is starting to spread around Winnipeg, and Lacerte’s replacement as chair, Barb Burkowski, is anxious to quell any controversy. “I’ve never in all my years of going to Pride seen something that was unacceptable,” she said. “It’s about inclusiveness. We are what we are.”

She insists that, despite the warning, no one is going to “police” this year’s floats. “We’ll be surprised as anybody that Sunday morning (June 14),” she said.

Yet, when asked about the anonymous complaint that started all this, she said, “We wanted to acknowledge it.”