All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Something that bugs me about Vancouver’s Pride Parade…

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…no, no, it’s not what you think – stop cringing, already.

The parade is upon us – BC Day’s long weekend, and once again it promises to be very successful. After all, it is one of the oldest (first in 1978) and biggest Pride Parades in Canada.  Judging by previous years it will be quite a show, and a lot of fun.

So it’s not that I have a problem with the event, far from it.  But the thing I deplore is: the blue metal fences.  Last year they were everywhere, along the parade route, as well as in the street drinking areas – separating the sinner from the innocent, as it were.

Are the fences really necessary?  Take a look at this photo taken last year, on Robson, after the parade.  The message is clear: pride paraders on the street, onlookers on the sidewalk.  Us versus them.  It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you’re on; a fence creates sides.

Robson Street, after the parade

I know, I know, there are no doubts excellent reasons why these blue fences are there.  But I haven’t managed to find out why.  Security?  Ah yes, one must protect the marchers from the unruly crowd.  But is the risk so high?  Just a few days ago, I saw the Olympic cyclists race through London streets amid crowds of cheering fans.  No fences – yet the cyclists risk life and limb should they collide with a distracted onlooker.  For that matter, I don’t remember a continuous fence perimeter in other crowd events, like the Vancouver Sun Run (sure, there’s one in the starting area – but not throughout).  In New Westminster, a few years back, I remember watching the marchers of the Hyack parade get organised in the staging area, without the benefit of blue fences.

Maybe the gay pride parade is different?  Maybe the city fears attacks?  I’m not naïve enough to think that all’s well with gay rights in Vancouver.  Last year, one of my friends got attacked in the skytrain on his way to the parade.  He was carrying a rainbow flag – apparently that’s a crime, in the eyes of his aggressor.  Hearing stuff like that depresses me to no end.  It should never happen now, in Vancouver, because it should never have happened anywhere, ever.  But it did, and still does (don’t get me started on the Ugandan government!).

And maybe it’s the organisers themselves who insist on the fences?  If so, maybe they are wise and cautious, given that gay bashing is still with around.  But I don’t think it’s the organisers.  They may be cautious, but I don’t see them being that paranoid.

I could be wrong.  Still, consider this: if I were into gay bashing, I would be rather worried for my own safety should I ever think of being fresh with, let alone attacking, one of the marchers during the parade – it just defies common sense (ok, common sense is not a strong feature of gay bashers, but still…).

So I don’t think the fences are there for the safety of the marchers.  Surely, the city can’t be thinking that the safety of the on-lookers is at risk because of over-enthusiastic and rambunctious marchers?

No, I didn’t think so.  So what is it?

I’d sure like to see the blue fences go.  They are dumb at the best of times, but they particularly rankle in the context of the pride parade.  I can’t think of any event better designed to promote diversity and inclusivity.  In my happy, fantasy world, the parade would take on a New Orleans Mardi-Gras character, where the public cheers along, sings along, and marches along the floats – a bit drunkenly, sure, but what a good time we have.  In my fantasy world.  Here in the real Vancouver, I’d be stuck behind a blue fence if I want to watch the parade.  Unless I choose to join a group of participants – in which case I’m still stuck behind a blue fence, can’t even high-five friends I see among the spectators.

In cities all over the world, there are amazing marches, sport events, and pride parades that don’t feel the need to separate the on-looking public from the marchers behind blue fences.  And it’s more fun – speaking as a tourist, anyways.

And all over the world, I have seen people drinking beer and wine in the open without – gasp – being enclosed behind fences.  So, c’mon Vancouver…


Okay, maybe I got it all wrong.  I didn’t walk the whole parade route.  Maybe there are sections that don’t have these godforsaken fences, say along the wider Beach Avenue.  Maybe I got fooled by seeing that fenced-off section on Robson.  Maybe I got cranky because of the blue fences all along Davie (they’re not there for the parade, they’re there for the drinkers).  Maybe, just maybe, I owe the city and the organisers an apology for my rant.

Still.  I don’t like the blue fence at public events.  I don’t think a real city would fence off its streets from its people.  Hurray for the pride – boo for the blue fences.  So there!


Written by enviropaul

August 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm

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