Pride Toronto, the non-profit organization that holds Toronto’s annual Pride Parade, lists “inclusivity” as one of its main values. “We welcome everyone and want everyone to be welcomed,” reads the group’s website.
They should rewrite that. Pride Toronto has officially banned Toronto Police Services from putting a float in the parade, or having stands along the route. LGBTQ people who are police officers can march on their own, but not as an identifiable group.
It’s a horribly misguided decision. Yes, we know, Toronto’s Pride Parade began in 1981 in part as a reaction to police harassment of the city’s gay community. The history is real. But it’s also history.
Last summer, members of Black Lives Matter Toronto held a sit-in during the parade, bringing it to a standstill for half an hour. The group only ended its blockade when Pride Toronto officials agreed to its demands, one of which was that police participation be banned.
Black Lives Matter is a group that spends a lot of its energy protesting the police. In a democratic society, it has every right to. It also has reason to: Police often deserve to be criticized – the TPS’s long-standing practice of carding, which fell most heavily on black Torontonians, was only recently curtailed by provincial legislators.
BLM thinks it’s taking Pride Toronto back to its protest roots. After all, the police weren’t invited to take part in the first gay pride rally in 1981. And now Pride Toronto, in deference to a group that claims to speak for all black Torontonians, has agreed to go back in time.
But surely Pride Toronto would agree that the willingness of groups to work with the police to end harassment has been a key part of the social progress that has made Toronto one of the world’s most diverse and tolerant cities. The Pride weekend is a hugely popular annual event and a major symbol of Toronto’s inclusivity. Or it used to be, anyway.
Then there is the fact that Pride Toronto has agreed to the ban while accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in support from all levels of government. To take that money and then discriminate against members of an important public institution is problematic, to put it mildly. There will be a taint on this year’s parade if the ban isn’t lifted.Report Typo/Error
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