After a contentious parade, a revoked promise to do better, and a series of public meetings, Pride Toronto is apologizing for “a history of anti-blackness.”
“Pride Toronto wants to begin by apologizing emphatically and unreservedly for its role in deepening the divisions in our community, for a history of anti-blackness and repeated marginalization of the marginalized within our community that our organization has continued,” read a statement posted on the Pride Toronto website late on Monday night.
“Pride Toronto regrets the way Black Lives Matter – Toronto Coalition’s (BLMTO) protest was handled by our organization and the statements made following the Parade that did not represent our organization,” the statement from the board of directors continued.
This year’s Pride Parade was stopped by members of BLMTO, who asked for and received an end to a police presence at the parade.
However, the executive director of Pride who signed the agreement later said he only agreed to get the parade moving. Mathieu Chantelois has since resigned.
“They say you learn more from your mistakes than your successes; and Pride Toronto has had plenty of both this year. Following the 2016 Festival and Parade, it was critical the organization take the time to do something it should have done more of throughout the year — listen,” the statement from Pride Toronto read.
“Race and gender are, perhaps not unlike the rest of society, clearly the issues with which our community has the greatest difficulty with,” Pride Toronto said Monday.
“There has been an unbelievable amount of racism expressed by members of our community through this organization. For that, we are sorry. Individuals who proudly serve our communities in law enforcement and other roles in public safety have felt unfairly attacked and targeted by the community that it turns to for love and support. For that, we are sorry. Through this debate, all of you have turned to Pride Toronto for clear and decisive leadership and support through this issue and we have stayed quiet. For that, we are sorry.”
BLMTO wants to ban police floats and booths from the Pride Parade and Pride community spaces. However, they are open to participation from LGBTQ officers.
The group is also calling for more spaces for black queer youth, for more diverse hiring at Pride Toronto (including black trans women, black queer people, and Indigenous people), and more black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters.
Pride Toronto acknowledged that these concerns, while they were raised during the Parade, were not all new.
“Some of these demands were not new to Pride Toronto and had been raised by our community members in the past; without progress,” the organization said Monday.
“I think it’s a start that they have apologized and recognized anti-blackness within their organization and their leadership,” said Ravyn Wngz, a member of Black Lives Matter Toronto’s steering committee. “However there are many apologies that are still to be made.”
Wngz said BLM continues to look for a detailed plan of action from Pride about addressing anti-blackness in the organization, which was missing from today’s apology.
The statement is unflinching in its criticism: “Pride Toronto did not make enough of an effort to engage with members of our black community who have worked with the organization for a very long time.”
As Pride Toronto begins to plan the 2017 events, the organization said working on the dispute resolution process, working with BLMTO to present their concerns, finding an appropriate place for police, and finding a new executive director are all top of mind.
“We are listening,” they said.