Toronto Mayor John Tory says he’s deeply disappointed by Pride Toronto’s membership decision against allowing uniformed police participation in the 2019 parade.
Pride members voted Tuesday night 163-161 to keep uniformed officers out of the parade, a decision that Pride Toronto said showed a deep division within the city’s LGBTQ community.
“What this vote has told us is we need to better understand what this community feels about police services and how they feel it negatively impacts their lives and so that’s what we’re going to try to do,” said Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto.
She said they plan to use a recent $1.25-million federal grant to fully examine the LGBTQ community’s feelings on police and a way forward.
The members’ decision means police will be out of the festivities indefinitely, she said. Another vote would be needed to allow uniformed officers back in.
Mayor John Tory said the result of the vote was “deeply disappointing” and a little divisive, adding he is going to use the powers of his office as best he can to help facilitate a solution.
“I believe the police should be in Pride, I’ve said that many times,” said Tory.
“We must not let happen in this city, on this issue or a host of other issues, the kind of polarization that we see elsewhere. I hope that the Pride board and the Pride membership will continue to examine this issue in the very short term and I mean weeks, not months or years.”
Nuamah agreed with the mayor.
“I think something does need to be done about it sooner rather than later,” she said. “I don’t think anybody is truly happy.”
Things got a little heated during Tory’s press briefing after he was asked by a reporter why a straight white mayor was weighing in with his opinion.
“I’m not going to get into a debate with you about a straight white mayor, I actually take some offence at the fact that you would even ask a question that way,” said a clearly agitated Tory.
“I am the mayor of Toronto, duly elected by the people and the whole notion you would raise, rather I’m straight or rather I’m gay or whether I’m white or some other colour skin is not the way we do business in Toronto either.”
Acknowledging that there have been issues before between police and Pride TO, Tory says he’s hoping they can work through those issues so that uniformed police can be included in the parade this year.
“Good faith on all sides is going to get this resolved and that I intend to continue to use my office as the mayor of Toronto, regardless of my sexual orientation or my skin colour, to move this forward and to continue to get people to focus on good faith and see if we can find a resolution.”
Akio Maroon, who voted against police participation in Pride, said nothing has changed with the police treatment of the LGBTQ community.
“It’s not up to the people being victimized to change anything,” Maroon said. “It’s not up to us, it’s up to the Toronto police to change their militarized policing tactics, the ways they’ve failed to listen to the community, and treated black and brown and racialized bodies, including trans bodies, within the city.”
In a statement Tuesday, Toronto police said they “remain committed to maintaining a dialogue with Pride Toronto as well as the larger LGBTQS community to deliver policing services that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of the community regardless of the outcome of one particular vote or event.”
The relationship between Pride Toronto and city police has been tense for the past two years.
Uniformed officers were first banned from the parade in 2017 over concerns of racial profiling, and again in 2018 over criticism the force had not taken the disappearances of several men missing from the city’s gay village seriously.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter abruptly halted the Pride Parade march, demanding that uniformed police, their floats and cruisers be excluded. The group cited tensions between the force and black citizens arising from racial profiling as among the reasons for their demands.
Pride organizers agreed for the next two years to exclude uniformed officers on-duty from marching in the parade.
For this summer’s event, organizers have also cited ongoing anger about perceived police inaction on the gay village disappearances as a reason police could not participate. A 67-year-old self-employed landscaper, Bruce McArthur, was arrested last year and charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in those disappearances.
The community had long ago sounded the alarm on a suspected serial killer preying on men in the gay village.
Christin Milloy, who opposes police participation in Pride, joined Francis D’Souza to discuss the relationship between Pride Toronto and Toronto police right now. Watch below.