Organizers of Toronto’s annual Pride Parade are planning to end the event with a tribute to the victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
The Until We’re Safe March will be led by organizers and volunteers wearing black. As the march moves down Yonge Street, barricades at Bloor, Wellesley, Carlton and Gerrard will be removed to allow others in the crowd to join.
“We are going to celebrate. It’s a festival and … it’s going to be celebratory,” Pride Toronto Executive Director Olivia Nuamah told CityNews.
“But the difference this year is that we are going to be giving a little bit more visibility to different members within our LGBTQ+ community. (The Bruce McArthur investigation) has definitely gone into how we are forming and delivering the parade this year.”
Nuamah also said a moment of silence will be held during the parade to honour not only the murder victims, but also members of the community who died because of HIV/AIDS, homophobic and transphobic laws and hate crimes.
“All of this is meant to … show solidarity for the LGBTQ community during these very difficult times,” she said.
Friday’s flag-raising ceremony at city hall, to mark the start of Pride Month, also recognized the victims and addressed the strain the case has caused between police and the community.
“This year carries a special poignancy as we have all just stood here together to acknowledge and remember the missing and lost individuals within the Church and Wellesley community,” Mayor John Tory said.
“We know that people are feeling anxious and unsafe. Their trust has been threatened. And we know that they have questions that need to be answered.”
Since January, police have charged McArthur, 66, with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the disappearances of several men, most of whom had ties to the gay village.
Many in the community criticized police for not taking the disappearances seriously and it prompted a review of the force’s practices for missing persons investigations.
“I would absolutely call it an ‘asking of questions’ about why it was our investigations were treated slightly differently from investigations that happened amongst the mainstream community,” Nuamah said.
Meanwhile, Toronto police held their own flag-raising ceremony at their College Street headquarters and promised to work harder at the relationship with the LGBTQ community.
“We are committed to improving our partnership and our place within the community,” said Insp. David Reznick.
“Admittedly, over the last several months, those partnerships have been challenged. But we are very grateful to some of the people who … are willing to come to the table with mutual trust and respect for both sides, to make things better for the service and the community.”
Prominent LGBTQ activist Rev. Brent Hawkes said after “a rough year,” the community has to move forward.
“With any relationship, there are going to be bumps along the way, and as we have those bumps, it’s crucially important that we continue the dialogue, that we continue to be at the table together, that we continue not to fearmonger or make crazy allegations, that we sit down and work on making change together for the long term,” he said. “That’s crucially important.”
More than one million people are expected to attend the parade, which takes place on June 24.