The federal government announced Saturday it will invest nearly half a million dollars in improving the safety of Canada’s LGBTQ community in the wake of the killings of eight men with ties to Toronto’s gay village.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government will provide $450,000 to Pride Toronto to lead an initiative that aims to improve the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the criminal justice system.
“For too long, the LGBTQ2 community has encountered injustice from various institutions in our society in ways that have prevented people from living their lives more fully and contributing their strengths to our country,” Morneau said at The 519, a Toronto-based agency that advocates for the LGBTQ community.
Morneau, who is also the MP for Toronto Centre, did not specifically name Bruce McArthur, who faces eight counts of first-degree murder, but said the funding comes as “violent murders” have been uncovered in the city.
McArthur made his first appearance in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice earlier this month, and a judge said he could stand trial as early as next September.
“The groups in this riding have led the way in demanding meaningful change,” Morneau said Saturday.
“We know there has been a long and turbulent history between the criminal justice system and LGBTQ2 Canadians. Certainly residents of Toronto Centre know about this issue here locally.”
Members of the LGBTQ community have accused Toronto police of failing to seriously investigate the disappearances of men linked to the city’s gay neighbourhood in the years leading up to McArthur’s arrest in January.
Pride Toronto has also had a tense relationship with police for the past two years, since uniformed officers were banned from the 2017 Pride parade over concerns of racial profiling and criticism of how they handled the McArthur investigation.
Last month, Pride Toronto said the two sides had made progress on conversations related to “policing and institutional power,” and the force is welcome to apply to be a part of next summer’s festivities.
Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, said the federal funding will initially go towards nation-wide consultations with LGBTQ agencies and leaders to determine how to improve community safety.
Nuamah said the talks will be a “deep dive” into the experiences of safety and security of the LGBTQ community across Canada. She said the second step will be a research and analysis process to come up with solutions.
“This money will help us begin to start the process of understanding how we start to talk about these things, how it is we start to communicate them to the wider Canadian public, and certainly and most importantly, how we find solutions to addressing some of these concerns,” she said.