Less than a month ago, the provincial British Columbia Liberal Party (BC Liberals) faced criticism for advertising in The Light, a local Christian magazine, alongside content condemning abortion, medically-assisted dying, and the very existence of LGBTQ people.
Given some party members’ close connections to the magazine and their history of espousing conservative and specifically anti-LGBTQ positions in the past, inclusive-minded BC voters have begun to wonder whether they can trust the Liberals to uphold their values.
Now the Vancouver Pride Society has barred the party from marching in its annual parade (going forward this year in a virtual space due to COVID) if they refuse to reaffirm their values by severing their connection with the magazine.
Last week, the organization put the Liberals on notice that the recent controversy could potentially render them ineligible to march:
In correspondence today, the Vancouver Pride Society informed the BC Liberal Party that if action is not taken, they will be excluded from participation in the parade. Vancouver Pride Society has a parade entrant matrix, which all entrants to the parade and ancillary events are scored against. These recent events have led us to re-score the application and find that the BC Liberal Party no longer meets the minimum requirement for participation.
The parade matrix, designed to ensure that highly-coveted spots on the parade route go to genuinely LGBTQ-supportive organizations, grades applicants on their values, policies, and community-support initiatives, as well as their plans for contributing to an enjoyable, meaningful parade experience.
Organizations with recent histories of homophobia and transphobia, like the BC Liberal Party, aren’t necessarily banned, provided they handled the incident successfully in a way that didn’t cause harm to LGBTQ groups or individuals.
That question has determined whether the Liberals can be included in an event that has the LGBTQ community at its heart… and the results are not encouraging, to say the least.
In a statement to CBC News, a representative of the BC Liberals said they believed no members of the society were currently running ads in The Light. The party at large has committed to reviewing their advertising policy, and party leader Andrew Wilkinson has said that no more Liberal advertising dollars will go towards this or any other anti-LGBTQ publication.But MLA Laurie Throness insists that he will continue to buy advertising space in the magazine, and that it does represent his values.
Those values include reproductive control, medical gatekeeping of trans identities, and conversion therapy for sexual and gender minorities.
And for all that Wilkinson has said that homophobia and transphobia have no place in the BC Liberal Party, Throness as yet remains in power, not only as a caucus member, but as the Opposition Critic for Children and Family Development and Child Care. That’s a highly inappropriate portfolio for someone who thinks same-sex families are sinful and parents should have an absolute right to dictate a child’s gender identity and expression.
Registration for the parade closed on Monday, July 20. In the days leading up to that deadline, Vancouver Pride Society co-chair Michelle Fortin was very clear that, while the Liberals may have said all the right words, they hadn’t yet taken the concrete steps required:
Despite being reassured by the BC Liberal leader that that was no longer going to happen, they continue to invest in this magazine. We’ve basically said to the Liberals: until you take action and stop investing in that kind of publication, and until you deal with MLA Throness, you will not be allowed into the parade.
It’s not just Throness, either; according to PressProgress, the outlet that broke the original story, MLA Marvin Hunt has also continued to place ads in The Light, opposite articles about the evils of abortion and the battle against pornography.
Consequently, according to an e-mail from Vancouver Pride executive director Andrea Arnot, the parade will go forward this year without the BC Liberals:
VPS informed the BC Liberals today [July 21st] that they will not be eligible to participate in the 2020 Vancouver Pride Parade, and that we look forward to hearing about their accountability plan to ensure all of their caucus members understand the harms of conversion therapy, as well as that any forms of homophobia or transphobia have no place in Canadian society, especially not with elected officials.
Given the party’s lackluster response to the issue, it’s the best available outcome. Participation in Pride events can really benefit organizations who want to court progressive favor. If the BC Liberals want the imprimatur of the LGBTQ community, they’re going to have to earn it.
Here’s hoping they do better next year.