Toronto police apply to march in 2018 Pride Parade, but group doesn't 'believe that this is the time'
The 519, an advocacy organization, says police need to rebuild trust with LGBT community first
Toronto police have formally applied to have officers in uniform march in the Pride Parade this year, but at least one organization says the force needs to rebuild trust in the LGBT community first.
Meaghan Gray, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, confirmed in an email Wednesday that the force has filed its application to participate in the 2018 parade and is waiting for a final decision.
Since last summer, police had "very meaningful discussions" with Pride Toronto about its relationship with the city's LGBT community, Gray explained.
"The service will respect the final decision of the Pride committee," Gray said.
Police were not allowed to attend the parade in uniform, with weapons and cruisers last year. Pride Toronto also banned police floats.
In recent months, relations between the police and LGBT community have become strained over the handling of the case involving accused serial killer Bruce McArthur. The 66-year-old landscaper has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of six men, some of whom were connected to the Gay Village.
"I can tell you thought that we don't believe that this is the time for the police to be asserting their intentions to participate in Pride," Mahmood said in an email Wednesday.
"They have significant work they need to do to build the kind of trust that would make their participation appropriate and we believe that they should be more focused on doing that work."
As for Pride Toronto, executive director Olivia Nuamah said the organization officially opened registration for its parade on Nov. 17, 2017 and will accept applications for participation until April 30.
After the deadline, the organization will spend up to three weeks reviewing applications. Then it will post the final parade list on its website to kick off Pride month on June 1.
In 2016, the advocacy group Black Lives Matter Toronto brought the parade to a standstill until Toronto Pride's leadership agreed to a list of demands.This included barring uniformed police officers from marching in the parade and police floats or vehicles too. The group had argued that a police presence would make members of marginalized communities feel unsafe due to the torrid history between the force and the city's black community.
Following discussions with the LGBT community, Pride Toronto agreed to bar uniformed officers from participating in the parade, while police agreed not to participate in uniform.
Tension have recently mounted between police and the LGBT community over the force's handling of the McAthur case. Since his arrest in January, questions have emerged about how police dealt with decades of missing persons cases in the Gay Village.
Many LGBT advocates have criticized certain elements of the homicide investigation after reports that McArthur may have been interviewed years before his arrest as part of a divisional probe. This fuelled suspicions of police inaction in dealing with the LGBT community's concerns about a possible serial killer.
The community speaks out
Stephen Low, an academic who frequents the Gay Village, doesn't think uniformed police should participate in the Pride parade.
"It's about the way they treated the missing men in our community and the comments that have happened since. I don't think they have shown or earned the trust of the community to be invited back and to celebrate them in their role of police officers," he said.
Dan Stortini disagrees.
"If you go back, 20, 40, 30 years ago there was a bad relationship with this community and the police and there's been a lot of effort on both sides to reconcile that," Stortini said.
"I thought the gay parade … started out as a protest against police and now they're in it. It doesn't' really make sense," said Ubah Addow. She added that from her experience, the presence of police in the city's Gay Village has been "uncomfortable."
With files from Radio-Canada's Jean-Philippe Nadeau