Crowds lined more than a dozen downtown blocks of Toronto to revel in the annual Pride parade, which featured a noticeable police presence even if Toronto Police Service officers were not invited to march.
Police provided security on the edges of the parade route down Yonge Street, which was packed with dancing, flag-waving and bead-throwing celebrants.
Among the high-profile politicians taking part were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, as well as Toronto Mayor John Tory.
Mr. Trudeau waved a rainbow flag featuring a maple leaf as he led members of his cabinet and caucus through Toronto’s downtown. He smiled and waved to well-wishers lining the route, including some who crowded windows on the upper floors of buildings facing Yonge Street.
Toronto’s Pride is the largest of the hundreds of pride celebrations across the country, typically held during the month of June.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford did not take part in the Toronto celebration this year, having said earlier that he would not march if Toronto police officers were not invited. Deputy Premier Christine Elliott represented the provincial government. Mr. Ford did march in a Pride parade in nearby York Region earlier this month.
This is the third year in which the police have not marched after a protest by the Black Lives Matter group in 2016 and later as a result of concerns about the police response to a serial killer operating in the city’s gay village.
Akilah Dennis, a 25 year old who lives in Brampton, Ont., said she enjoyed the parade, which she sees as one day in a year when everyone can come together happily without fear of persecution.
“I like that everyone was calm and relaxed and there was no drama,” she said. But she added that she was disappointed that police weren’t also marching in the parade and hopes in years to come they will be incorporated once more. “I feel like they should march,” said Ms. Dennis.
Others felt differently. Andrea Moss, who is visiting from the Bahamas, attended her second Toronto Pride parade Sunday. She described it as “amazing, even bigger and better than before,” but said she’s in favour of keeping police on the sidelines. “We’re supposed to be safe here,” she said.
It was the second mass gathering on the streets of Toronto in two weeks, after the victory parade for the Toronto Raptors, winners of the 2019 NBA championship. The celebration was marred by a shooting that left four people injured, highlighting the potential perils of mass events as hundreds ran through crowded streets to flee the gunfire.
On Sunday, uniformed members of the Toronto Police Service were joined in some places by RCMP officers in tactical gear, likely because of the Prime Minister’s presence.
More than 200 groups marched and crowds were lined four and five deep to greet the parade with singing, dancing and flag waving.
“Every part of our community is here to show pride,” said Kaitlin Coutu-Johnson, who was attending her third Toronto Pride parade. “Everyone is just so happy and celebrating. I feel like every year it gets bigger and the city grows more accepting.”