Toronto·Feature

Pride Month wraps up amid police ban controversy

Political guests from Tory to Trudeau, a festival for first responders, Toronto cops who flew off to New York and a surprise arrival by Black Lives Matter all defined this year's Pride parade.

Lots happened at this year's parade, but the contentious police ban still taints Pride theme of inclusivity

Political guests from Tory to Trudeau, a festival for first responders, Toronto cops who flew off to New York and a late-in-the-game arrival by Black Lives Matter all defined this year's Pride parade.

100 Toronto cops march in New York City parade

Members of the Toronto police, who were asked not to march in uniform in this year's parade, flew south in defiance of Pride Toronto's ban on uniformed officers.

"It's pretty pathetic," said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association. "We should not be down here. We should be in our own city, marching with our own community that we police each and every day." 

McCormack said marching in uniform helps police connect to the community and signals to officers that their sexual and gender identities are accepted in the force.

About 100 members of the Toronto Police Service marched in uniform alongside the New York Police Department on Sunday. (CBC)

Separate party at home to protest police ban

CBC's Devin Heroux spoke to First Responders Unity Festival organizer Bryn Hendricks, who wanted to create a space for uniformed police and allies to celebrate their identities.

In the early afternoon Sunday about 50 were in attendance.

Uniformed police gathered in Winchester Park on Sunday alongside supporters from the community. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Activists show up late as a 'reminder'

Black Lives Matter, who weren't formally registered as participants in the parade, showed up late in the afternoon to a largely cheering crowd, bringing a more serious political element to the march.

BLM members stopped periodically to chant in support of marginalized groups, at one point lighting flares and covering the crowd in a thick pink smoke.

Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of BLM Toronto, reiterated the group's stance on police presence at the march. "This is actually our Pride, and the conversation on anti-Black racism is lost through all of this," Diverlus said. 

Black Lives Matter, who notoriously stalled last year's parade until organizers agreed to a list of demands aiming to make Pride more accessible to vulnerable communities, marched late Sunday afternoon. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Parade champions "plus" theme amid controversy 

Despite the tension over the cop ban, thousands of revellers celebrated diversity — and inclusion — with costumes, music and dancing.

This year's theme was "plus," standing for inclusivity. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)
The Pride route took marchers down Yonge Street from Bloor to Dundas streets. (Carly Thomas/CBC)
Pride Toronto is now a month-long festival that culminates in the annual parade. (Tina Mackenzie/CBC)
Although Pride is a mainstream event here in Toronto, some in the march reminded revellers that there's work to be done. (Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC)

Pride pastor and activist Brent Hawkes' last sermon

He was a familiar face at Pride Toronto for over 25 years.

Brent Hawkes, a pastor at the LGBT-friendly Metropolitan Community Church, will retire at the end of this year.

He led his last Pride service, joking with a crowd that included Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Hawkes told CBC earlier this month that his retirement plans include founding an international organization aimed at preventing homophobia fuelled by religious beliefs. (Global News)

First Nations presence promotes pre-colonial sexuality

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde lent his support to Pride this year, representing the first time a national chief attended the parade.

"There were two-spirited people amongst our tribes and nations long ago and they were highly regarded, highly respected," Bellegarde told CBC News earlier in the day.

"They were our medicine people, they were ceremonial leaders — and as we've always said, there's no closet in teepees."

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde showed his support at this year's Pride parade. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

Trudeau and family march in Toronto

Justin Trudeau, wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their children walked the parade route alongside thousands of others this year.

"We are celebrating what is extraordinary about Canada: the inclusivity that makes us great, respect for each other, and the willingness to celebrate our identities," the Prime Minister said.

"It's a wonderful occasion to be here."

Toronto's Pride parade began with the 1981 bathhouse raids. It's now a mainstream event and one of the biggest festivals in the country. (Devin Heroux/CBC)

With files from Devin Heroux and Makda Ghebreslassie

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