If police aren't allowed at Pride, he wants to start a new Pride

Toronto community activist Bryn Hendricks says he's willing to start a new Pride parade if Pride Toronto refuses to allow uniformed police to take part in the parade.

Activist says ban on uniformed police means Pride 'is no longer serving its function'

Community activist Bryn Hendricks says he's willing to start another Pride parade if Pride Toronto doesn't allowed uniformed police to take part in the parade. (CBC)

Toronto community activist Bryn Hendricks says he's willing to start a new Pride parade if Pride Toronto refuses to allow uniformed police to take part.

"If there's not a change by Pride Toronto by this year with regards to police ... then I'd say it's absolutely necessary because Pride is no longer serving its function," Hendricks said Tuesday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning

Last summer's parade was held up by a contingent from the activist group Black Lives Matter Toronto until Pride organizers agreed to a list of demands, including a promise to prevent uniformed police from participating in future parades.

Since then, Toronto's LGBTQ community has been about the decision. 

Yesterday the city's Economic Development Committee approved funding for Pride for 2017, a decision that will next go to full council. The vote was unanimous, but many still aren't happy that police are banned from the annual summer parade that draws thousands. 

Earlier this week Coun. John Campbell urged Pride officials to "come to their senses" and let police take part or risk having their funding pulled. 

"It's become divisive," Hendricks told Metro Morning host Matt Galloway. "I've spoken with thousands of people who say they're not participating this year. I find it difficult to reconcile going to a parade that is not inclusive in the way it's meant to be."

Petition opposes police ban

Hendricks said there's a petition opposed to the police ban with 8,900 signatures. He also said moves to initiate further discussion with Black Lives Matter have gone nowhere. 

​"I think it's hypocritical to ban officers that want to celebrate, particularly LGBTQ officers, members of the community and allies ... from celebrations just because they're wearing their uniform."

And though he's opposed to the police ban, Hendricks said he's sympathetic to BLM's mandate to oppose police violence against people of colour.

"The issues that they've brought forward ... I stand wholeheartedly behind," he said. 

He admitted the relationship between police and the LGBTQ community has been "sometimes bumpy" but said banning police is the wrong response. Also, Hendricks said moves to open the lines of communication between Pride and BLM have gone nowhere. 

"Every attempt to reach out to that organization has been completely ignored," he said.

In April, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario dismissed a complaint by Hendricks against Pride Toronto, Black Lives Matter Toronto and some of its co-founders alleging discrimination and seeking $50,000 for legal expenses, loss of time and compensation for loss of dignity.

When asked to comment on the initiative, Black Lives Matter Toronto spokesperson Sandy Hudson called it "irrelevant."

In a statement released Sunday evening, Pride Toronto reiterated that police officers were welcome at the parade so long as they appeared as civilians rather than in an official capacity.

The organization said officers could participate in the march if they left their uniforms, weapons and cruisers behind.