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Saskatchewan Party MLAs barred from Regina Pride parade over school pronoun law

REGINA — An organizer with Regina's Pride parade says she was surprised to get an application from the governing Saskatchewan Party asking to take part in the event next month.
Organizers for Regina’s Pride parade have barred the governing Saskatchewan Party from participating in the event this year. People hold pride flags while attending a rally against the Saskatchewan government's proposed legislation on pronoun policy in front of the provincial legislature in Regina, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

REGINA — An organizer with Regina's Pride parade says she was surprised to get an application from the governing Saskatchewan Party asking to take part in the event next month.

Riviera Bonneau, co-chair for Queen City Pride, says it was hard to understand why some legislature members would want to march in the parade when their actions over the last year contradict support for the LGBTQ+ community. 

"We all felt a little frustrated and confused and a little ick about it," Bonneau said Monday.

"You can't pretend you're our ally, join our parade and do this whole thing while actively hurting members of our community."

Queen City Pride announced Monday it has barred Saskatchewan Party politicians from participating in Pride festivities because of a law that prevents children under 16 from changing their names or pronouns at school without parental consent.

Premier Scott Moe's government passed the legislation last year, arguing parents should have a role in decisions their children make at school. 

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said Monday it's disappointing government MLAs have been banned. 

He said he doesn't know why the Saskatchewan Party applied to take part in the parade and whether other government politicians were planning to go.

"It's too bad. Obviously, I think when we have large provincial events, it's something we hope everybody is able to attend," Cockrill said.

He said he's never gone to a Pride parade but would take it under consideration if someone ask that he attend. 

Cockrill added he's open to meeting with groups that have concerns about the pronoun law.

"For many it was a challenging topic. At the end of the day, though, I feel comfortable we've legislated the ability for parents to be involved in the important conversations in a child's life," he said.

Queen City Pride also announced it will not hold a flag-raising ceremony with MLAs outside the legislature for Pride month. 

Bonneau said the ban isn't meant to be exclusionary. 

"We're setting out to make a group of people -- who have felt excluded and hurt -- feel safe, comfortable and loved," she said. 

"A lot of people reached out and said that if the Sask. Party is there, like they normally are, they won't feel that way."

Bonneau said the group's board discussed a ban in October after the province introduced the legislation and invoked the notwithstanding clause, a rare measure that allows provincial governments to override certain Charter rights for up to five years.

She said the board was optimistic the province would change course, but said, "That just wasn't the case so this is the path that we've chosen."

Some Saskatchewan Party politicians have taken part in Pride parades in Regina and Saskatoon in recent years. 

Moe appeared in the Saskatoon parade four years ago.

Bonneau said this year's parade in Regina will feel "more important" because of the pronoun law.

Some of those marching have upgraded their floats and signs to show they're supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, she added.

Leading the parade will be transgender youth.

"They're very excited, and we'll have signage stating the bill isn't helpful," Bonneau said.

"We try not to bring politics into our festival because it's a time for 'love is love' and to be happy. But what's happening right now in our political climate is important (to acknowledge)." 

Alex Zahara, co-chair of Prince Albert Pride, said Saskatchewan Party MLAs will be barred from attending the parade next month in the city, 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2024.

Jeremy Simes, The Canadian Press