Trudeau pinkwashing Pride parade | The Coast Halifax

Trudeau pinkwashing Pride parade

Critics say the prime minister’s visit this weekend is a distraction that hinders the festival’s efforts to rebuild trust with the local BIPOC community.

click to enlarge Trudeau pinkwashing Pride parade
Prime minister Justin Trudeau marches in the Toronto Pride parade last month.

The most watched person at this year’s Halifax Pride parade will be a straight white man with a penchant for rainbow socks.

It was announced Monday that Justin Trudeau will be marching this weekend in Halifax, becoming the first sitting prime minister to take part in a local Pride parade. But some members of the LGBTQ+ community say Trudeau’s historic visit isn’t worth celebrating.

Kehisha Wilmot, head of the Mount Saint Vincent University Queer Collective, says Halifax Pride is breaking its promise to centre marginalized voices in this year’s festival.

“We have people of colour doing things in this parade,” they say, “and the big thing we’re currently now looking at is we brought down a white guy in a high-position role to be our focus.”

Festival executive director Adam Reid tells The Coast there was a “standing invitation” for Trudeau to visit Halifax since last year’s parade, but the organization only found out he’d be coming a couple of days ago.

“I understand the community concerns,” says Reid, about the pinkwashing criticisms given Trudeau’s prominent placement in the parade. “But I also see this as a real opportunity for growth. I don’t think we grow as a community or grow as a festival if we are shutting down each others’ opportunities for discussion.”

Halifax Pride as an organization is trying to bounce back this year after a disastrous annual general meeting last fall. Members of the Queer Arabs of Halifax and supporters were shouted-down by a gaggle of seemingly straight and cis outsiders who took issue with a proposed resolution to ban any government or corporate pinkwashing efforts at future Pride festivals.

As a result, several groups are boycotting Pride this year—including Wilmot’s Queer Collective and Dalhousie University’s South House.

The festival and Reid have spent the last several months trying to regain community trust through efforts meant to centre the city's diverse voices—efforts like choosing The Magic Project as the parade's grand marshals and helping Halifax Regional Police decide to only march out-of-uniform. Wilmot says those steps have all been positive signs of a more intersectional, inclusive Pride.

Unfortunately, Trudeau.

“There’s all this progress and instead of focusing on that, they’re like, ‘Hey, look at this really big name we have,’” Wilmot says about the festival’s celebrity get. “It just seems like the people we need to be focusing on, now we’re not focusing on.”

Reid counters that Trudeau’s presence can help “shine a light” on Halifax’s LGBTQ+ community.

“The festival is more than just the participation of any one person,” he says. “We’re going to use this opportunity to celebrate the take that opportunity to talk to that wider audience about all the amazing things that are happening here.”

But Pride is still a political movement, says Wilmot. It should do a better job of listening to the concerns of Black, Indigenous and Muslim individuals, and acknowledge how much vulnerability those people are giving up when taking part in the parade.

“This feels like once again we’re in the room, but we’re on the back shelf in the corner,” they say about Trudeau’s visit. “We got a chair [full] of tacks; he got the throne.”

This year’s Pride parade begins Saturday at 1pm, and will travel along Barrington Street, Spring Garden Road and South Park Street to finish at the Garrison Grounds.