Toronto police invite to NYC Pride parade 'a slap in the face' to those demanding change
Some who supported ban on uniformed officers at Pride 'are not happy' about trip, police admit
Banned from marching in uniform in this year's Pride parade, a group of about 100 Toronto police and union representatives travelled to New York City this weekend to participate, in uniform, in that city's festivities.
But the force's own LGBT liaison officer admits that many here see the move as a "slap in the face" to those who supported the exclusion of uniformed officers from the Toronto parade.
"I've had conversations with community members, and I know a lot of them are not happy with our contingent down there," said Const. Danielle Bottineau.
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The invite was put out by the Gay Officers Action League (GOAL) New York, which bills itself as a non-profit human rights organization. Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders lent his support to officers who wanted to attend and the union representing Toronto police encouraged members to make the trip.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack has been a vocal critic of the decision to ban uniformed officers from marching in this year's parade.
"It's a bittersweet thing. Isn't it great the New York Pride parade can be exclusive and includes us but that we can't even do that in our own city?" he asked.
Chief Saunders announced in February that the Toronto police would not be participating in Pride events this year. That move came after Pride Toronto voted in January to uphold a ban on uniformed officers first proposed by Black Lives Matter activists during a protest that stalled the 2016 parade for about an hour.
Toronto police will still be offering security and emergency services throughout the weekend. And officers are still allowed to participate in the parade, but only in civilian dress.
Bottineau has marched alongside her partner, in uniform, for about the last eight years. She says the last year has been an "emotional roller coaster."
"I think we move forward from this, and I think there will tough conversations to be had after Pride is done," she said.
Bottineau added that the decision to go to New York City was left up to individual officers.
"I can't speak on behalf of the officers because I don't know what they were thinking or why they wanted to go," she said.
Members of the city's LGBT community have reached out to her "voicing their concern" about the optics of Toronto police officers marching in the New York parade when there is turmoil at home.
"They don't like the fact that, to them, we didn't get our way here so officers went down there ... So it's like a slap in the face. Not for all, but for some," Bottineau said.