Pride Toronto apologizes for 'deepening the divisions' in LGBT community

Pride Toronto has apologized for "deepening the divisions" in the LGBT community and for "a history of anti-blackness."

Organization is also sorry for 'history of anti-blackness,' marginalizing those at its edges

People from the Black Lives Matter sit on the ground to halt the annual Pride Parade, in Toronto on Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Pride Toronto has apologized for "deepening the divisions" in the LGBT community and for "a history of anti-blackness."

The organization said in a statement signed by its board of directors that it received more than 1,100 emails and heard from more than 700 people at its town hall meetings. The statement follows controversy over its parade in Toronto in July.

Pride Toronto said it regrets the way it handled the Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) protest and statements made after the protest that it says did not represent the organization.

"Pride Toronto wants to begin by apologizing emphatically and unreservedly for its role in deepening the divisions in our community, for a history of anti-blackness and repeated marginalization of the marginalized within our community that our organization has continued," it reads.

In July, the Pride parade was temporarily blocked by a Black Lives Matter Toronto protest. The event resumed 30 minutes later after top Pride executives agreed to a list of demands for next year's festival, including a ban on police floats in the festival's penultimate march.

The next day, Pride Toronto's former leader, Mathieu Chantelois, said the organization never agreed to exclude police from its events, but would have discussions with the force about what its future involvement would look like.

It said it was not prepared for the racism that followed its decision to make BLMTO its "Honoured Group" at the parade and it "remains committed" to demands by BLMTO, Blackness Yes, Black Queer Youth, among others.

BLMTO wants Pride Toronto to ban police floats and booths from Pride marches, parades and community events.

"Broadly, we heard clearly from the feedback, that Pride Toronto needs be more transparent around our decision-making and better consult with and communicate our direction to our community members," it reads.

Pride Toronto said it will use its dispute resolution process to determine the nature of police participation at future Pride events

"It is our existing decision-making mechanism, which we believe is the best tool to assess the participation of law enforcement agencies in a manner that is objective, transparent and involves the participation of human rights experts," it reads.

Aaron GlynWilliams, co-chair of Pride Toronto, said in an interview with CBC News that the demand that police floats be excluded from future parades will go through the dispute resolution process. 

"It's not an issue that we should in a quick way be deciding, one way or another, in or out. It's more complex than that," he said.

Ravyn Wngz, a member of Black Lives Matter Toronto, says the group didn't expect the statement from Pride Toronto but it appreciates the response. She said BLMTO still wants to see action on its demands.

"All of the things that they apologized for are deeply appreciated but we still need action plans," she said.

In its statement, Pride Toronto also said it will recruit a new executive director, and at its upcoming annual general meeting, four positions on its board of directors will be open for election.