The B.C. Liberal Party says it will not participate in Vancouver's Pride parade after refusing to sign a pledge calling for new legislation to protect transgender people, as required by organizers.
The city's Pride parade is scheduled for Aug. 2. The Vancouver Pride Society announced in May it would require parade entrants to sign a pledge for transgender equality. The one-page document says the signee supports the passage of new provincial and federal legislation to better protect transgender and gender-variant Canadians from discrimination.
Laura Miller, the B.C. Liberal Party's executive director, in an e-mail Wednesday confirmed the party will not participate in the parade.
"Vancouver Pride Society has drawn a line in the sand: Sign the pledge or don't march. As much as we might want to participate, we will not change our point of view to do so," she said.
"The party's policy is clear. Every individual is equal. Every individual has the right to protection under B.C.'s Human Rights Code, which is inclusive of transgender and gender-variant people. Where we differ is whether these protections need to be explicitly stated."
The Vancouver Pride Society, in a written statement, said people watching the parade this year "can take comfort knowing that the groups they see march in the parade support trans rights."
"No political party will receive special treatment for the parade," Bry Leckie, the society's parade co-ordinator, wrote. "Political parties that march must sign the pledge on behalf of the party. If they refuse to stand up for LGBTQ2+ rights, they have no place at the parade."
The statement said the society encourages the B.C. Liberal Party to sign the pledge.
The society, in launching its Trans Equality Now campaign two months ago, said sexual orientation has been legally protected at the provincial and federal levels since the 1990s but transgender and gender-variant Canadians have not been explicitly protected. It said they face violence, discrimination and refusal of service on a daily basis.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, a B.C. New Democratic Party MLA, said the Liberal Party's decision was disappointing.
"They should talk to transgender people, who will tell you that, yes, it is important to explicitly protect gender identity and expression, as most other provinces have done," he said in an interview.
Mr. Chandra Herbert, whose partner will be one of the parade's grand marshals, earlier this week reintroduced a bill that would see protection for transgender people added to B.C.'s Human Rights Code. It was his fourth time introducing the bill.
B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton has said B.C.'s Human Rights Code protects all persons, no matter their gender identity.
A transgender rights bill by federal NDP MP Randall Garrison died in the Senate earlier this year.
Ms. Miller, in her e-mail, said the B.C. Liberal Party's Vancouver-West End riding association did initially sign the Pride Society's pledge and was confirmed for the parade. But Ms. Miller said the society later dropped the riding association from the parade.
Chrissy Taylor, the society's vice-president, said it clarified its pledge policy on Tuesday and decided it would not be enough for an individual candidate or riding association to sign – the party itself would have to do the same.
Elaine Allan, the federal Conservative Party's candidate for Vancouver Centre, also signed the pledge. The society said it has not yet received a signed pledge from the federal Conservative party.
The City of Vancouver has signed the pledge and will participate.
A spokesperson for B.C. Premier Christy Clark said she will be out of town on the day of the parade and had already planned not to attend.