Surrey Pride president Martin Rooney (front) poses with members of the Surrey RCMP, including spokesperson Corporal Elenore Sturko (right) at the 20th annual Surrey Pride at Central City Plaza on Saturday, June 29, 2019. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Vancouver Pride isn’t ‘going away from their roots’ in parade police ban: Surrey Mountie

Surrey RCMP spokesperson Elenore Sturko says she is ‘disheartened’ about decision

Surrey RCMP spokesperson Elenore Sturko says having police officers be a part of pride in their uniforms “allows us to role model inclusion and diversity within our own institution, within our own organization.”

READ ALSO: A Surrey Mountie’s tale of reconciling her family’s history with the LGBTQ+ ‘purge’, March 25, 2019

This comes after Sturko tweeted her reaction to Vancouver Pride Society’s decision to not allow police officers or prison guards to march in its Pride Parade.

The society’s decision follows the growing Black Lives Matter movement throughout Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere following the death of George Floyd, who died while being restrained by police in Minneapolis.

READ ALSO: ‘Racism, it destroys your soul’: Surrey man looks to youth for change, June 6, 2020

“We stand with Black communities who have taken to the streets to demand accountability from the police,” states a post on Vancouver Pride Society’s website.

“The roots of Pride are in righteous anger, riot and uprising against police brutality. These riots against the violence of the police were led by Black and Brown trans women and queer people. The Stonewall Riots propelled gay movements from assimilationist tactics towards unapologetic Pride. These riots worked.”

On June 10, Sturko tweeted, that she is an “LGBT police officer. When we wear our uniforms and participate in Pride events. We do so not only to stand with our community, but to stand up to discrimination within our own institutions. I am disheartened. #VancouverPride.”

Since then, Sturko’s tweet has had dozens of replies, likes and retweets, with responses ranging from support to someone telling her she was wearing the uniform of “the enemy.”

“You could take that defensively and be insulted or you could look at it and say, ‘Wow, that person, from their perspective, they see the uniform that I wear as their enemy. What does that mean? What does that mean to me as a police officer? That’s really devastating and not because I feel it as an insult to my uniform, but I’m devastated that people in our greater communities… that someone would feel that way is really sad. I don’t want it to be that way.”

She added that it’s “important to recognize that the people who are hurting right now, they have belief and passion founded in their own experience.”

Sturko said she’s been asked if pride is “betraying itself” by not including police, but she doesn’t think so.

June is Pride Month, and is also meant to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York between police and gay rights activists.

“Police, historically, have been the ones enforcing discriminatory laws and making arrests and doing things in line with these discriminatory practices that have hurt our relationship with the LGBTQ2SI community,” she said.

“They’re not actually going away from their roots. It’s actually quite the opposite, but what’s important to recognize is that as we’ve moved ahead and moved forward, the activism that we’ve then later been able to participate in as uniformed police officers has also helped change our policies and cultures within greater institutions.”

She said the Surrey detachment is “in alignment (with Vancouver Pride Society), wanting to address issues of racism, discrimination, the excessive use of force and the fear of police.”

“I fully understand their decision behind that and what they’re hoping to achieve. It’s just where we differ is that I would like to see the inclusion of police in that activism because I know how in my family that’s meant a lot and how in my experience as a police officer, that’s assisted me.”

Sturko’s uncle was “purged” from the RCMP in 1964 when it was still a crime in Canada to be a homosexual.

She previously told the Now-Leader his story sheds much-needed light on the significance of her role today as a lesbian with the RCMP.

READ ALSO: Forced out for being gay, Mountie’s legacy ‘not the end of his story’, Dec. 4, 2019

Knowing what happened to her uncle before she joined the RCMP, Sturko said she felt the best was to tackle issues was to join.

“Now as we are in this period of change… it’s never been more important than now to have people join us from diverse backgrounds.”

Meantime, Sturko said she plans to meet with someone who was on the Vancouver Pride Society’s board so they can talk about the decision.

Friday, the society tweeted a “reminder for those who need it” that pride is “not about inclusion for all, it is about justice and liberation for all”; it’s “not ‘getting political,’ Pride has always been political”; and it started “as a riot against police brutality.”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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