Ottawa

Ottawa police union head 'troubled' by Pride ban on uniformed officers

The head of Ottawa's police union says he's 'troubled' by uniformed police officers being banned from Pride Toronto, and is urging Ottawa Capital Pride not to follow suit.

Exclusion 'simply wrong,' Matt Skof tells Toronto Pride in open letter

Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof wrote an open letter urging Ottawa Capital Pride not to ban Ottawa police from participating in pride events after Pride Toronto voted to do so earlier this week. (CBC)

The president of the Ottawa Police Association is "troubled" that Pride Toronto voted Tuesday to adopt a list of demands from Black Lives Matter that includes removing police floats from future pride parades.

Matt Skof wrote in an open letter that he worries Ottawa's pride organization may follow suit.

I believe it's a mistake to exclude uniformed police from Pride events.- Matt Skof, president of the Ottawa Police Association

"I believe it's a mistake to exclude uniformed police from Pride events," wrote Skof. 

"Excluding uniformed police sends the mistaken message to all of our members, and in particular to our LGBQT members, that they are unwelcome by career choice and to the larger LGBQT community that police are not 'their' public safety service.

"This is simply wrong," he added.

Ottawa Capital Pride said it has never been approached by Black Lives Matter to exclude police floats from its parade, and is monitoring the situation in Toronto closely.

"We're really far out from our festival," said Ottawa Capital Pride chair Tammy Dopson. "We're a different city... We want to review the matter before making a response. We have lots of time to do that."

Black Lives Matter demands made in July

At Toronto's pride parade in July, members of Black Lives Matter Toronto halted the procession with a sit-in, which ended when a Pride Toronto executive director signed a document agreeing to a list of demands.

Black Lives Matter said at the time that Pride Toronto "has shown little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communities. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years."

Activist Alexandria Williams says her group temporarily shut down the parade to challenge 'Pride's anti-blackness' 7:35

At Pride Toronto's annual general meeting Tuesday night, members voted to adopt a list of demands from Black Lives Matter, including banning police floats.

"What happened ... was a vote that simply reaffirmed the commitment and the path that the organization was on," former executive director Mathieu Chantelois said at the time.

Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash expressed disappointment about how Tuesday's meeting played out and said it's a "great shame that some people are choosing division over inclusion."

Pride Toronto voted Tuesday night to adopt a list of demands from Black Lives Matter Toronto, including a ban on police floats. (CBC )

Skof agrees, and is urging Ottawa Capital Pride leadership to "resist any departure from its commitment to inclusion," he wrote in his open letter.

"I was troubled to hear that participants at the annual general meeting of Toronto's Pride organization voted to ban uniformed police from marching or participating in any way in future parades. We are concerned that efforts may be made to require Ottawa's Pride organization to consider a similar motion," Skof wrote in his open letter.

"When our members walk in the parade, proudly wearing their police uniforms, they are reinforcing the importance of inclusion — they are making it clear that policing, as a public service, reflects the community."

Ottawa Capital Pride said it plans to speak with its community members and festival stakeholders in the spring as part of ongoing consultations aimed at improving the event.