Vancouver Lunar New Year parade reverses decision to ban progressive LGBTQ+ groups

“We don’t really understand why it has to be so difficult because I don’t think it’s very difficult to be inclusive and welcoming.”

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VANCOUVER – Organizers of Vancouver’s Chinatown Lunar New Year parade have changed course and rescinded their ban on two progressive and LGBTQ+ groups they previously banned from participating.

Organizing committee spokesman Frank Huang said letters had been sent to the groups Chinatown Together and Lunar New Year For All, approving their participation in Sunday’s parade.

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Huang gave no reason for the reversal in a brief interview in Mandarin on Friday night.

Chinatown Together organizer Melody Ma said in a statement that neither group had received a formally signed invitation from the parade organizing committee.

Chinatown Together and Lunar New Year For All published a joint letter on Friday night to the groups organizing the parade, saying they were seeking a public apology for the harm caused to the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the young and elderly. of Chinatown.

“In the past week, despite initially being invited to apply for the Chinatown Spring Festival Parade, your committee has decided to subject our groups to a series of turbulence, disappointment, public humiliation, slander, and harmful stigmatization stemming from your committee’s spread of unfounded and unprovoked accusations in the public sphere after rejecting us from participating in the parade,” the letter said.

In addition to the public apology, the two groups wrote that they were also seeking a “commitment to transparent communication regarding qualifications to participate in future parades for all groups.”

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In previous letters and statements, the parade committee had told Chinatown Together that it could not march due to a ban on “political activism,” while rejecting another group it did not identify due to the “potential for disruption and protests.”

Sunday’s Spring Festival Parade in Vancouver celebrates its 50th anniversary and marks the year of the dragon, which begins Saturday.

The event is organized by a consortium of six groups: the Vancouver Chinese Benevolent Association, the Chinese Cultural Center of Greater Vancouver, the Vancouver Chinatown Merchants Association, the Vancouver Branch of Chinese Freemasons, the Shon Yee Benevolent Association of Canada and the social services agency SUCCESS. .

Ma is a community activist and outspoken critic of gentrification in Chinatown. She has opposed projects such as a residential tower at 105 Keefer St., which was approved by Vancouver’s permit board last June after years of dispute.

On Tuesday, he posted a letter from the parade’s organizing committee on the social media platform event”.

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The letter dated Feb. 3 said the parade is “dedicated to a sense of unity” and is intentionally distanced from religious or political affiliations. He told Ma that “her passion for advocacy has been recognized.”

In an interview before the committee changed its mind, Ma said the group wanted to participate in the parade “even though the organizers were in favor of the gentrification of Chinatown because we wanted to put all that aside.”

“The irony is that by rejecting and citing political activism (whatever that means to them in this case) they are inherently politicizing the event and the decision,” he had said.

Pearl Wong, co-organizer of Lunar New Year for All, said in an interview before the decision was overturned that they were not told why they were banned.

“Our thought process was, hey, it would be great if we could form a group dedicated to queer and trans people of Asian descent,” Wong said.

“We don’t really understand why it has to be so difficult because I don’t think it’s very difficult to be inclusive and welcoming.”

The organizing committee had said in a statement Thursday night that it was accepting or rejecting applications based on “promoting community, collaboration and tolerance” and ensuring the parade is “safe and inclusive” for participants and spectators.

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Then on Friday, he issued another statement saying, “we welcome members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community to walk alongside us.”

But he said “one group did not meet our expectations due to the potential for parade disruptions and protests that were not related to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.”

He said the committee hopes to “resolve these issues” with the group, which he did not name, so they can participate next year.

Jordan Eng, president of Vancouver’s Chinatown Business Improvement Association, said the situation highlighted the complexity of Chinatowns and their social and economic failings.

“Chinatown is like a city unto itself,” with strong opposing views on issues like gentrification, Eng said before the committee’s recall.

“At 105 Keefer, even within those legacy organizations, it was a really difficult decision,” Eng said, noting that many groups changed their positions over time to support the project.

“Our views don’t necessarily align with legacy organizations, and in the last round of 105 (Keefer), most of those organizations didn’t support it either.”

Eng groups supported the project.

He said this year’s parade, which celebrates both the year of the dragon and the event’s 50th anniversary, would play a crucial role in revitalizing the neighborhood after the pandemic.

“This is really a moment for us to show Chinatown in a very positive way, in a unified way,” he said. “We need good news. “We don’t need people trying to tear us down.”

Additional police officers will be deployed for the parade and celebrations, but Vancouver police say there are no specific risks to public safety and the move is aimed at managing the large crowd.

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