Catholic archdiocese apologizes to pride society for blocking White Rock event

·3 min read
Ernie Klassen, president of the White Rock Pride Society, left, shakes hands with James Borkowski with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. The archdiocese has apologized to the society for stopping a 2019 event. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver - image credit)
Ernie Klassen, president of the White Rock Pride Society, left, shakes hands with James Borkowski with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver. The archdiocese has apologized to the society for stopping a 2019 event. (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver - image credit)

An LGBTQ+ pride society in B.C.'s Lower Mainland has received an apology from local Catholic church authorities, three years after a parish forbade them from hosting an event at a church-owned facility.

In April 2019, the White Rock Pride Society wanted to host a dinner-and-dance event at the Star of the Sea Community Centre in the city, which is located south of Vancouver.

However, the centre was owned by the Star of the Sea Parish. The parish told the society that the rental could not happen, because the pride society does not align with the values of the Catholic Church.

Ernie Klassen, president of the pride society, then filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, alleging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Three years later, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver — the Catholic authority responsible for the Lower Mainland — has issued an apology to the society, after multiple meetings before the complaint went to tribunal.

"We came up finally with an agreement that we are all really happy with," Klassen told CBC News.

"It's a win-win situation for the pride society as well as for the Catholic Church."

In the public apology posted on the archdiocese's website, the church said the meetings and apology were "aimed at repairing the relationship between White Rock Pride and the Parish."

Nic Amaya/CBC
Nic Amaya/CBC

"We acknowledge that these actions have resulted in increased divisiveness between our faith community and the LGBTQ2+ community, as well as with the individuals, including friends and family members, who support them," the apology reads.

Klassen said the church committed to changing its policies to see how they can become more welcoming toward the LGBTQ+ community.

With regard to renting event space, he said local churches would have to now go through the archdiocese if the pride society requested a church-owned space.

Nic Amaya/CBC
Nic Amaya/CBC

"We had a lot of members of the Catholic Church who reached out to us and thanked us for our work, to address the fact that the LGBTQ community did not feel welcome within the Catholic Church," Klassen said.

He said he hopes B.C. churches have positive interactions with the LGBTQ+ community at the grassroots level going forward.

James Borkowski, delegate for operations at the Vancouver archdiocese, said he gives Klassen a lot of credit for being open with the church after he filed the complaint.

"In order to love better and to be a more welcoming church, sometimes we have to start with an apology for the times that we have not loved," he said.

"As soon as we started that process, we found that we had a lot in common. We both agreed that this could be resolved much more amicably and even fruitfully through building the relationship — as opposed to spending more time with lawyers."

Borkowski said he also hopes that the Catholic Church is more accepting of LGBTQ+ people going forward, and that they "emphasize the humanity" of those who wish to enter a dialogue with them.

As for the pride society, they said they would celebrate the announcement and organize more pride events going into July.

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