Toronto

Toronto police union 'delighted' by invitation to march in New York's Pride parade — in uniform

Gay Officers Action League in New York says Toronto police can join them on June 25

Toronto Pride Parade 20160703

There won't be uniformed Toronto police officers marching this year in the city's Pride Parade on June 25. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

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While Toronto police officers won't be attending this year's Pride parade in uniform, they're invited to march south of the border instead.

The Gay Officers Action League, based in New York, sent a letter to the Toronto police on Friday, inviting officers to attend the New York City Pride March on June 25 — the same day as Toronto's Pride Parade.

"The invitation was extended because we felt they were being excluded from the Pride festivities in Toronto, and we fought very hard over a very long period of time here in New York City to have the right to march in uniform," said Brian Downey, president of the Gay Officers Action League.

Pride Toronto voted to remove uniformed officers and police floats from future parades during its annual general meeting in January following a request made by Black Lives Matter Toronto, which brought the 2016 Pride parade to a brief halt until top Pride executives agreed to a list of demands.

Pride Toronto later apologized for "a history of anti-blackness" and for "deepening the divisions" in the LGBT community.

Toronto Police Association 'delighted' by invitation

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, called the conversation about police participating in Pride a "total waste of time."

"It's taking away from what we believe Pride and inclusivity is," he said.

The union, McCormack said, is "delighted" by the invitation from New York. "We think it's a mature and inclusive position to take."

McCormack said he's spoken to members of the force's LBGTQ Internal Support Network, who are "honoured" by the invite, and said the union will be working to coordinate logistics and support officers hoping to make the trip.

Officers still allowed to attend in Toronto

In an email to CBC Toronto, a Pride Toronto spokesperson said they will not be commenting on the invitation.

But in a statement released earlier this month, the organization stressed that "LGBTQ+ police officers and their allies are not banned from the parade" and can march with community groups, the City of Toronto, or create their own group.

"We are simply requesting that their participation not include the following elements: uniform, weapons, and vehicles," the statement continued.

Toronto Pride Parade 20160703

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto sat on the ground to halt the annual Pride Parade in July 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

That's not enough, according to Downey.

"When you take away the uniforms, when you take away the equipment, you're kind of saying that you can come, and you can be proud — but you can't be police proud," he said.