By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG — Organizers have banned Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson from future Pride events after she bowed out of an annual parade in Winnipeg.
“She is not welcome any more to walk in Pride because she has flat out lied to our community,” Barry Karlenzig, president of Pride Winnipeg, said Thursday.
Stefanson spoke Sunday morning at a Pride rally — an event outside the legislature that celebrates the LGBTQ community. She did not take part in a parade that started immediately after. Organizers said her staff told her that she would.
Stefanson, saying she had to leave because she had other commitments, apologized Thursday.
“I want to sincerely apologize to Pride Winnipeg and the 2SLGBTQ+ community for not being able to join in the march portion of Sunday’s events,” Stefanson said in a prepared statement.
“Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict and miscommunication between my staff and the Pride Winnipeg organizers, I was only able to attend the rally. I was incredibly proud and honoured to be able to take part in the rally and show my solidarity and support to Manitoba’s 2SLGBTQ+ people and community.”
Karlenzig said Pride Winnipeg requires that any political leader who speaks at the rally also take a part in the march. The aim is to ensure that politicians are at the event for more than just a photo opportunity, he said.
The premier’s office confirmed three times that Stefanson would speak at the rally and also march, Karlenzig said, but then said she might have to leave the march early for another event.
“They said, ‘Can she do three-quarters of … the parade route?” he said.
“She didn’t walk any of it. She literally finished her speech and then went back inside (the legislature) and disappeared.”
The premier’s office said Stefanson was booked at two other events Sunday — a fundraising run behind the legislature for women’s mental health earlier in the morning and an Indo-Canadian seniors event in Winnipeg’s northwest that started at noon.
Stefanson was seen in photos taken at the latter event and posted on social media.
The Pride rally started about 10 a.m. and the parade was scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
The premier could have marched the entire parade route and would have been finished about 11:30 a.m., Karlenzig said. She could also have pushed back her arrival at the noon event, he suggested.
“I’m sorry, but you couldn’t move your thing by 20 minutes, a half-hour?”
Some members of Stefanson’s Progressive Conservative caucus marched in the parade, as did Opposition Leader Wab Kinew and members of his NDP caucus.
Stefanson is the third Manitoba premier to participate in Pride events. Her predecessor, Brian Pallister, spoke at the rally when he was premier. Former NDP premier Greg Selinger spoke at the rally and marched in the parade.