The Toronto Police Department will not be a part of this year’s Pride parade, the Toronto Star reports.
The police withdrew their application to march in the annual parade to avoid “any setback” in relationships between the police and the city’s queer communities, according to a statement from chief Mark Saunders. The decision comes after Pride Toronto issued a statement on Monday asking the police department to withdraw its application.
“My hope is that this move will be received as a concrete example of the fact that I am listening closely to the community’s concerns and I am committed thoroughly to building a better, stronger relationship between us,” Saunders wrote.
The police department’s withdrawal comes after severe criticism in how the department handled the deaths of several queer people in Toronto’s Gay Village. At one point, Saunders blamed the LGBTQ community itself, saying they were uncooperative and “failed to help” police find the killer.
“The chief of police has consistently said that he wants to repair relationships with the community, and I believe that to be true. I’m just not sure that he grasps what the expectations are from the community in terms of what dialogue and consultation look like,” Becky McFarlane, senior director of advocacy nonprofit the 519, told the Star.
This application withdrawal is the latest chapter in a long story revolving around tensions between Toronto Pride and the Toronto PD.
In 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto distributed flyers during the Toronto Pride festivities discussing anti-black racism among the city’s LGBTQ communities and during the Pride festival. One of BLM TO’s demands was that police not be given a platform or a float during the festivities.
— Casey Oraa (@caseyoraa) July 3, 2016
In 2017, Toronto Pride voted to ban police floats from the 2017 celebration. Some months later, the police department requested that the city not lend funding to Toronto Pride in response. After Toronto PD could not march in its own cities’ parade, NYPD officers invited them to march in the New York Pride Parade. One BLM activist called the move “disgraceful” in an interview with Mic.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack told the Star that he understands there’s “work to be done in the relationship between the community and police.”
“This is a huge departure from where we were 25 years ago, and there’s a lot of hard work on both parts,” McCormack said. “We’re looking for some positive narrative to go around, instead of having a wedge that continues to be driven in.”
In emails obtained by the Star, it seemed that Pride Toronto and the police force had reached an agreement that would allow officers to participate in uniform in the 2018 festivities.
Other cities’ pride festivities have had similar concerns about police presence. In 2016, police presence spurred Black Lives Matter, who was set to be an organizational grand marshal at the parade, to pull out of San Francisco’s pride parade.
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