Toronto

Pride Toronto co-chair resigns amid fallout from police ban

Erin Edghill stepped down at the end of Pride Toronto's annual general meeting, after a motion of non-confidence in four board members passed by a margin of 42 to 28.

Motion passed by voting members called for resignations of 4 board members

A faction of voting members within Pride Toronto has taken aim at the group's leadership. (Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press)

A co-chair of Pride Toronto resigned at a boisterous gathering of the group's voting members on Tuesday night, as the organization continues to struggle with fallout from its ban on police participation in the annual festival. 

Erin Edghill stepped down at the end of Pride Toronto's annual general meeting, after a motion of non-confidence in four board members passed by a margin of 42 to 28. 

"I understand that Pride began as a sexual liberation movement against police and state violence, and I understand that somewhere along the way, the organization either forgot or began to actively ignore this history," Edghill said in a statement that was also posted to social media.

Edghill went on to explain that their role on the board of directors forced them to take on fiduciary responsibilities that "required me to put the wellbeing and survival of the organization first, and that if I did not, if we did not, I was told the consequences could be severe."

Board members Amanda Bitton, Keegan Oliver and Kevin Rambally were also included in the motion. ​They declined to comment in a brief email statement to CBC Toronto.

Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, was named in a separate non-confidence motion that called for her resignation, though it was ultimately ruled out of order and therefore no vote was held on the matter. 

'People were really angry'

The internal rebellion against the board of directors was led by the No Pride in Policing Coalition. The group formed last fall, after the board chose to invite Toronto police to apply to re-join the festival for 2019. Uniformed officers last marched in the parade in 2016, when a protest by Black Lives Matter kicked off a years-long debate about the place of police in such an event. 

The decision to invite police back — which was announced at an October press conference attended by Nuamah, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders — was never put to a vote. The force eventually rescinded its application after fierce blowback from some in the LGBT community.

"People were really angry," said Gary Kinsman, an activist and spokesperson for the No Pride in Policing Coalition. The "vast majority" of Pride Toronto members have repeatedly reaffirmed their support for a ban on "organized or institutionalized" police participation since 2016, he added.

Last week, it was revealed that the board's decision to invite police back into the fold was at least partly motivated by financial strain and "mounting debt." Nuamah has suggested that Pride Toronto's future funding could be jeopardized by a continued prohibition on police participation.  

Kinsman, however, said Wednesday that financial concerns are being used as an "excuse" to subvert the will of Pride Toronto members. If future funding could be at risk, he said, the organization should rethink some its spending decisions. 

'Not the time' for police participation in Pride

The No Pride in Policing Coalition also successfully moved a third motion for Pride Toronto to publicly reject the police force's request for a $30-million budget increase. The money, Kinsman said, could be better spent within marginalized communities.

"The police are still involved in repressing members of our communities," he said, adding that the arrest of confessed serial killer Bruce McArthur has added to a schism between police and the city's LGBT community. Kinsman is among a growing chorus of LGBT people who say investigators long downplayed concerns that a killer was preying on men in Toronto's Gay Village. 

"This is not the time to insist that the police be allowed back into Pride. If the police really want to be allowed back into Pride, they have to earn it. They have to show that their practices have changed, and there's been nothing significant of any sort that has shown that," Kinsman said.

As part of the motion, Pride Toronto will send a representative to speak against a funding increase for police at the city's ongoing budget hearings. 

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