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Pride Toronto requests Toronto police withdraw parade application

Last Updated Apr 3, 2018 at 8:16 am EDT

Members of the Toronto Police Service dance to the Village People's song "YMCA" during the annual Pride Parade at Yonge and Dundas streets in Toronto on July 3, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Hudson

Pride Toronto is calling on the Toronto police to withdraw their application to participate in the 2018 Pride Parade at the end of June.

A statement was released on their Twitter Monday evening, citing the Bruce McArthur investigation as one of the main reasons for their request this year.

It was co-signed by the executive directors of The 519, Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, Sherbourne Health Centre, ASAAP, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP).

Toronto police confirmed that it had submitted an application to participate in this summer’s parade at the end of March.

Police spokesperson Meaghan Gray told CityNews in an email that she’s hopeful police will be back after their controversial absence last summer.

The Pride Toronto statement says they recognize steps have been taken to work in collaboration, but, “the relationship cannot be mended through a parade. Marching won’t contribute towards solving these issues.”

In recent months, relations between the police and the city’s LGBTQ community have become strained over the handling of the case involving McArthur.

The 66-year-old landscaper has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of six men, some of whom have been connected to Toronto’s gay village.

In the statement, Pride Toronto says the investigations into the men’s disappearances were “insufficient” and community fears that a serial killer was targeting men in the gay village area were “dismissed” by police, adding that the “disappearances and deaths of Alloura Wells and Tess Ritchie also speak to the marginalization of our communities and the silencing of our concerns.”

The statement says the community’s trust in Toronto police “cannot be mended through a parade.”

Last month, the Toronto Police Services Board approved an external review on how police handled the cases of missing men in the gay village.

“We recognize steps have been taken to work in collaboration and consultation to understand what we need to be safe. This will not be accomplished in one day,” the Toronto Pride statement said. “Marching won’t contribute towards solving these issues; they are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures.”

Meanwhile, LGBTQ advocates have said that locals who tried to share information with police about some of the missing men in the gay village were not necessarily taken seriously by officers.

“The individual stories and lived experiences of each of these people were unique. But what they did share was that the investigations into their disappearances were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed,” the Toronto Pride statement said.

“We feel more vulnerable than ever.”

McArthur was arrested in January and charged with the murders of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen, who went missing in 2017. Since then, he was charged with the first-degree murder of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick and Skandaraj Navaratnam.

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Toronto police won’t participate in Pride Parade, Black Lives Matter responds

Council votes against pulling Pride funding

Last year, members voted at a Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting to adopt Black Lives Matter demands, including the banning of police floats from Pride marches and parades.

Chief Mark Saunders later voluntarily bowed out.

“We understand the LGBTQ communities are divided,” he said in a statement. “To enable those differences to be addressed, I have decided the Toronto Police Service will not participate, this year, in the Pride parade.”

Toronto police have not responded to Pride Toronto’s request.