Toronto

Outdoor 'Church on Church' sets inclusive message for Toronto Pride celebrations

Toronto pastor Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, a longtime advocate for gay rights, delivered a message of inclusivity at an outdoor worship service in Toronto Sunday, part of Toronto's Pride celebration.

Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes delivers sermon that touches on Black Lives Matter, police apology

Dr. Rev. Brent Hawkes delivers sermon that touches on Black Lives Matter, police apology

CBC News Toronto

5 years ago
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Toronto pastor Dr. Rev. Brent Hawkes, a longtime advocate for gay rights, delivered a message of inclusivity at an outdoor worship service in Toronto Sunday, part of Toronto's Pride celebration. 0:57

Toronto pastor Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, a longtime advocate for gay rights, delivered a message of inclusivity at an outdoor worship service in Toronto Sunday, part of Toronto's Pride celebration.

"So often in the LGBT community, we are rejected by our families of birth and so we form families of choice," Hawkes said. 

"Similarly people come to this country, Canada, from all over the world — whether through immigration or refugee status — and they want a place where they belong, where they can be safe," he said. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sat solemnly as "Church on Church" got underway this morning in the Church and Wellesley village. But that was before the beat kicked in. 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends an outdoor worship sermon, part of Toronto's Pride celebrations, alongside Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Finance Minister Bill Morneau. (CBC)

Moments later, Trudeau was on his feet, clapping and urging thousands of others to join in as the service began with a lively rendition of Lady Gaga's Born this Way.

Trudeau was among several politicians and notables in attendance at the ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto in the heart of the Church and Wellesley village. Also there were Finance Minister Bill Morneau, Green Party leader Elizabeth May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her partner Jane Rounthwaithe, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam and former police chief Bill Blair.

The service, which has been taking place for more than 26 years, is Canada's largest such outdoor ceremony and is attended by thousands of Pride participants each year. 

Addresses bathhouse raids apology

Hawkes addressed the recent apology by police Chief Mark Saunders for the 1981 raids by Toronto police on four gay bathhouses. 

In June, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders apologized for the 1981 raids, saying the force "regrets" the actions that targeted the city's gay community. (CBC)

"The relationship we had with the police in the early days was a difficult relationship," he said, recounting being held at one demonstration by two police officers and being beaten by a third.

Saunders, who made the apology during the annual Pride reception at police headquarters, called the raids "one of the largest mass arrests in Canadian history." 

"While we know this relationship is not the same for all communities, let's recognize when progress happens and let's work to make sure all communities have room at the table."

'Black lives do matter'

Hawkes' remarks come during a year in which Black Lives Matter activists took a leading role at Toronto Pride. 

"How many people are really familiar with the point that Black Lives Matter is trying to make?" he asked.

"Black lives do matter," he said to applause. "And we need to be careful when we dismiss that by chanting, 'All lives matter' because it makes those lives invisible."

The theme of inclusivity ran throughout Hawkes' sermon.

​"Many people are rejected by their families, their churches, their synagogues and their mosques," he said.

"There's a role for all in helping to make sure that refugees and immigrants have an opportunity to be at the table."

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