Pride Toronto has publicly called on Toronto Police to withdraw its application to march in this year’s Pride parade, citing the force’s handling of a spate of missing persons cases from the city’s Gay Village.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page on Monday night, Pride Toronto wrote that, as members of the community continued to go missing, “the investigations into their disappearances were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed.”
The statement adds that the city’s LGBTQ community’s “often tenuous trust” in the Toronto Police Service was “severely shaken.”
“We feel more vulnerable than ever,” says the letter, signed by Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride, and community advocates including the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, and the Toronto People with AIDS Foundation. Andrew Kinsman, who went missing the week after the Pride parade in 2017, worked with the latter organization.
The letter says Mr. McArthur’s arrest “has added a new poignancy and a new pain to the fears that sit at the heart of anyone who lives a life of difference.”
Toronto Police submitted their application to participate in the parade last month, although they had not made a decision at that point about whether those who march would wear uniforms.
Don Peat, a spokesman for Mayor John Tory, said late Monday that the Mayor believed it was up to the community and the police to resolve their differences.
“Mayor Tory firmly believes this is a matter for the police and the LGBT2Q community to work out, with restored trust and collaboration as the number one priority,” Mr. Peat said in an e-mail.
The Toronto Police could not be reached for comment on Monday evening.
The stunning reversal comes after months of negotiation between the city’s police service and the board. Multiple Pride board members who spoke to The Globe and Mail in February said that, before the arrest of Mr. McArthur, who now faces six charges of first-degree murder, both sides had hoped to be able to reach an agreement on police involvement in the parade.
Toronto Pride has grappled with the issue since 2016, when Black Lives Matter interrupted the parade with a list of demands, including the end of uniformed police participation in the event, and better representation of people of colour in the organization.
Pride, after a tumultuous debate within the organization, the community, and the city at large, chose to forbid uniformed police participation last year.
This year, there was hope for a solution that would prevent a repeat of last year’s situation, Ms. Nuamah told The Globe in February. One board member suggested the officers might sport some kind of alternative uniform. Ms. Nuamah did not respond to a request for comment on Monday night.
Conversations between police and the organization quickly derailed after the arrest of Mr. McArthur, which appeared to confirm as the long-standing fears in the community that a serial killer was targeting men, especially men of colour. After the arrest, and revelations about possible deficiencies in the investigation, Pride began to rethink the celebratory attitude it had envisioned for police involvement. One board member told The Globe that everything changed after the arrest.
Last night’s statement from Pride listed the names of the men Mr. McArthur is alleged to have killed. “Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi, Dean Lisowick, Selim Esen, Andrew Kinsman, Skandaraj Navaratnam, and a man who remains unidentified,” the release said. “These men were part of our communities and so a part of our family.”
It also raises concerns about the investigations into the deaths of Tess Richey, who was killed in the heart of the Gay Village this summer, and Alloura Wells, a trans woman whose death remains unexplained.
With a report from Jeff Gray