'Enough is enough:' Pride Toronto board member explains decision to ban police from parade

The decision to ban uniformed officers from the Toronto Pride parade is on the right side of history, said Akio Maroon, a new board member with Pride Toronto.

Akio Maroon, a new board member with Pride Toronto, said she stands by the vote to ban uniformed officers

Akio Maroon said she believes the decision to ban uniformed officers supports marganilized LGBT people who feel oppressed by police. (Instagram/akiomaroon)

The decision to ban uniformed officers from the Toronto Pride parade is on the right side of history, said Akio Maroon, a new board member with Pride Toronto.

"I do not see this decision as exclusion. I see this decision as accountability. I see this decision as supporting the most racialized and marginalized members of our community," she told CBC's Metro Morning on Monday.

"This is for us. Pride is for us, and we need to have a voice."

Her comments come after Pride Toronto's annual general meeting Tuesday, where they voted to remove uniformed officers and police floats from future parades.

Voting on the Black Lives Matter demands was not a planned part of Tuesday's agenda. Typically, the AGM is a venue for sharing audited financial statements from the previous years festival and electing new board members. (CBC )

Those demands originally came from Black Lives Matter Toronto, who briefly halted the Toronto Pride parade in July and presented a list to then executive director Mathieu Chantelois.

He signed the document, which also included a commitment to increase diversity in hiring and staffing at Pride Toronto and a commitment to increase and support community stages, including the reinstatement of the South Asian stage, which Pride Toronto also approved.   

The demands were added to the annual meeting's agenda last-minute on Tuesday after requests from the crowd.

Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto, who were part of the parade as honoured guests, held up the marching for about 30 minutes. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)
Mathieu Chantelois signs a list of demands from the Black Lives Matters movement as they stage a sit-in at the annual Pride Parade in Toronto on Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Maroon said she doesn't speak for the board, but as a black, queer woman, she stands by the vote.

"I absolutely believe that accountability must be had, and we cannot have the same people who are beating us, who are harassing us, who're responsible for violent encounters with us, dancing with us in revelry in uniform with their guns on their side while being paid to participate," she said. "Absolutely not."

'Enough is enough'

Maroon said the membership of Pride Toronto made their decision to show support for marginalized people within the LGBT community who feel the police are oppressive.

"We're not at the stage in society where police in uniform is a safe thing for many people," she said. "Police need to be held accountable for their violence in our community ... we're going to continue the conversation until we're at the level where police can be accountable."

Sandy Hudson, Alexandria Williams and Yusra Khogali, co-founders of Black Lives Matter Toronto, at Pride 2016. Writes photographer Paige Galette: "This photo really captures the essence of what Black Pride meant." (Courtesy of Paige Galette)

At past events, Maroon said police have targeted trans women, black men and black women. Whether someone feels the decision is right or wrong, she said the board had to remain accountable to members of Pride Toronto and respect their vote. 

That doesn't mean police can't participate in other ways, Maroon said.

"Really, it's about the institution that is oppressive to people that continue to be militarized, that continues to target, harass, and dehumanize racialized and marginalized members of the LGBT community."

Asked to respond to Maroon's comments, Mark Pugash, director of corporate communications with the Toronto Police Service, wrote in a statement to CBC Toronto: "After last week's annual general meeting, there was great confusion, in the media, from people connected with Pride Toronto over what happened. That confusion has not been resolved. Pride Toronto has not informed us about what happened. We are unable to comment until we know what actually was decided."

Danielle Bottineau, a Toronto Police Service constable and a member of the city's LGBT community, spoke with Metro Morning on Thursday about the decision. She has participated in Pride for the past seven years as a uniformed officer and an LGBT liaison on the force.

"I'm saddened by it for sure. I'm disheartened by it," Bottineau said.

She said police officers should be visible participants in Pride events because their participation sends an important message to young members of the community. 

"I'm a proud out gay woman, but I'm also a proud member of Toronto police," she said.

A Toronto Police Service parking enforcement officer waves a Pride flag as they march along the parade route during the Pride Parade in Toronto, Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Still, something had to be done, according to Maroon. Change is hard to accept, she said, but it's necessary for future accountability from law enforcement in the city. Those who understood that knew how to cast their vote.

"I think the membership just said, you know what? Enough is enough."

With files from Metro Morning