When the annual Montreal LGBTQ Parade heads down Rene-Levesque Blvd. on Aug. 20, members of Canada’s Armed Forces won’t have to ask permission to be there. In fact, for the first time ever, attendance is being encouraged by the top brass.
“We were very happy to see that the military is doing a step forward to have more inclusion in the military,” said Montreal Pride Vice-President Jean-Sebastien Boudreault.
In the past, members of the armed forces needed to ask permission from their superiors to attend Pride events. In June, Canadian Armed Forces Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance issued a directive saying that not only is that no longer required, but any troops who wish to attend should do so.
“In an effort to promote diversity and inclusion the (Chief of the Defence Staff) encourages all members of the CAF to attend and participate in Pride events in uniform,” Vance wrote.
For Cpt. Andre Jean, the directive is a big step.
“It means a lot for us, because diversity is a big thing in the Canadian Armed Forces,” he said.
Jean joined the military in 1998 and came out as gay to his colleagues several years later.
“Some of them were thinking that maybe I was sick or I had some problem,” he said.
Despite that initial pushback, he said he was totally accepted soon after.
Now, he’s relieved to see that acceptance become official. Pride Montreal and other LGBTQ organizations have been lobbying the military to do away with the permission policy for years, an effort that has resulted in the new policy.
“It’s a step forward,” said Boudreault. “You don’t have to ask to be who you are. You can just be who you are.”
It’s the first year in which the Canadian Armed Forces will be participating in the parade as an organization. Members will be required to be in dress uniform which cannot be altered in any way, including Pride ribbons or pins. However, they will be allowed to bring flags and banners.
Jean will be there as both a soldier and founder of Team Diversity Plus, a Quebec-based organization that represents all minorities in the Armed Forces. Jean said more than a dozen members have confirmed their participation, a number he hopes to grow to 50.
“I have request from Winnipeg right now, from Borden, from Ottawa,” he said. “It’s very exciting right now.”