Toronto

Toronto police won't participate in Pride parade, chief says

The Toronto Police Service will not be participating in this year's Pride parade, says police Chief Mark Saunders.

Toronto Pride voted in January to ban uniformed officers and police floats from parade

There will be no scenes like this at the 2017 Pride parade in Toronto. Police Chief Mark Saunders says the force will not participate in this year's parade, but will still hold its annual Pride reception. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The Toronto Police Service will not participate in this year's Pride parade, says Chief Mark Saunders, a move that comes a month after Pride Toronto voted to ban uniformed officers from the event.

"We understand the LGBTQ communities are divided. To enable those differences to be addressed, I have decided the Toronto Police Service will not participate, this year, in the Pride parade," Saunders said in a statement on Friday.

Toronto police officers will continue to provide security for the event, but will not participate in side kiosks or parade floats. Saunders said the force will continue to hold its annual Pride reception. 

Chief Mark Saunders says Toronto police won't participate in Pride parade 1:07

The decision to remove officers from the parade doesn't sit well with Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.

"All this is doing is creating a negative environment around something that should be positive and something that should be inclusive," he said.

Saunders greets the crowd during Toronto's Pride parade in 2015. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

It's a sentiment shared by Mayor John Tory.

"I am disappointed and frustrated with the current situation," he said. "No one should feel excluded from Pride and no group should have to decide it is better if they just don't take part. This current situation is not good for a city as inclusive as Toronto."

Pride says officers 'still welcome'

"We want to be clear, members of the Toronto Police Service are still welcome to march in the Parade as members or allies of our diverse and beautiful community," Pride Toronto said in a statement to CBC Toronto. The group added that the festival must belong to everyone in the community.

During its annual general meeting in January, Pride Toronto voted to remove uniformed officers and police floats from future parades.

People from Black Lives Matter sit on the ground to halt the annual Pride parade in July 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The demands came from Black Lives Matter Toronto, which briefly halted the Pride parade in July 2016. The organization presented Pride Toronto's executive director with a list of demands, which also included a commitment to increase diversity in hiring at Pride Toronto.

The matter was originally referred to a formal dispute resolution process that would have taken place in August. But the formal dispute process was rendered moot after Pride Toronto's vote in January.

Leadership roles vacant

Pride Toronto has been without an executive director for months. The former director, Mathieu Chantelois, stepped down in August, shortly after signing a document agreeing to a list of demands from Black Lives Matter.

With less than four months until the event, the organization does not have a festival director in place. 

This year's Pride Toronto festivities run June 1-25.