After increased tension between Toronto’s LGBT2Q+ community and Toronto police over the last two years, Pride officials announced Tuesday that they will be allowing officers to march in next year’s Pride parade — provided they meet the Rules of Parade Entry.
In 2017, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum across North America, Toronto police officers did not march in uniform in the Pride parade — a first for the parade since 2000.
Then in April of this year, Toronto police agreed to withdrawal their application to march in the 2018 Pride parade after event organizers said the presence of uniformed officers would make members of the LGBT2Q+ community feel unsafe.
This time the issue was focused on the Bruce McArthur investigation and questions over the police’s ability to keep members of the LGBT2Q+ community safe while a serial killer hunted in the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood for years.
“In April of this year, in grief over the violent loss of people in our communities, we asked the Toronto police to withdraw their application to march in the 2018 Pride parade,” Pride Toronto said in a statement on Tuesday morning.
“We asked for time to mourn and to discover how to heal. The police honoured our request, and the parade became an important moment in our collective expression of resilience and our individual expressions of heartache.
“Even more importantly, we also asked the Toronto police to embark on a process of increased co-operation and collaborative action with the city’s LGBT2Q+ organizations. We sought, and continue to seek, institutional change that takes time and openness to achieve.”
At a news conference at the 519 community centre on Tuesday morning, Mayor John Tory and police Chief Mark Saunders spoke about police being allowed to take part in the parade.
“Marching in uniform in the Pride parade is an important event, not just to show our support for the LGBTQ+ communities, but also to the proud members of the Toronto Police Service that are within the LGBTQ+ community. And so it really means a lot to us as an organization and also as a community as a whole,” Saunders said.
Saunders said renewed dialogue with the community has improved but its an ongoing process.
“Standing in front of the camera really truly doesn’t represent the tremendous amount of work that is being had over the past couple of years — admitting that there has been strains within the community and the Toronto police relationship,” he said.
Pride’s executive director Olivia Nuamah said officials have been working with police over the past two years to get to this point.
“Opening up an opportunity for the police to apply and participate in our parade, but continue ongoing work within our communities in order to progress some of the issues that you have heard raised over the last two years.”
Tory said this has been a difficult time for the LGBT2Q+ community, referring to murders in the community over the last several years.
“I can say with confidence … that [the] process of building up confidence and building up trust is well underway,” he said.
Pride Toronto said the decision to allow police to return to the parade was based on “signs of a new understanding and active commitment.”
“When we receive an application from the Toronto Police Service, we will review the application and provided they meet our Rules of Parade Entry, they will be granted a marching permit for the 2019 parade,” the statement continued.
“This decision is made in acknowledgement that Pride Toronto can only thrive through commitment to a diversity of efforts. The critical conversations that have been started will continue, fostered through the work of organizations in our community that we trust.”
Read Pride Toronto’s complete statement below: