July 13, 2016

Councillor Wong-Tam's Statement on Toronto Police and the Pride Parade

Over the past few weeks, important questions have been raised regarding the role of protest in the Toronto Pride parade, the relationship of police to the full spectrum of the LGBTQ2S community and, particularly, the needs of Queer and Trans persons of colour.  I have been encouraged by the many nuanced and challenging conversations that this has inspired in the broader community.  However, I have also been disappointed to see several City Councillors enter this debate from an uninformed perspective, and make political hay from a painful and necessary community conversation.

Unfortunately, many of the most vocal Councillors have not found the time to consistently offer their support to Toronto Pride events.  Each year, at the Pride flag raising, the Pride parade, and PFLAG's ceremonies, ample space is created for politicians to stand in support of the LGBTQ2S community.  Yet, time and again, those who will not show up in solidarity, find it opportune to interject their views when difficult conversations arise; drowning out more invested voices, and ignoring years of important work.  The Toronto Pride funding debate, of years past, was subject to this rhetoric, and now the same situation is being replayed here; promoting a manufactured, either-or debate that is of little benefit to anyone.

Toronto Pride is not a City-run event.  For Councillors to place themselves in the middle of a debate which they have little power to effect is disingenuous to constituents and disrespectful to the established community processes of Pride Toronto.  While many are rightly pleased with the progress the Toronto Police Service has shown in working with the LGBTQ2S community at large and supporting events such as Pride - as well as its own officers – I cannot think of anyone on City Council who can fully grasp the lived experience of Black, LGBTQ2S Torontonians.  This dearth of perspective is the very reason why City Council has supported Pride Toronto's internal Dispute Resolution Process in years past.

Hard conversations are inevitable.  In the best of cases, they can lead to real progress.  Pride Toronto, Black Lives Matter, the Toronto Police Service, and the many other important stakeholders must be granted the opportunity to engage – should they choose - in the Dispute Resolution Process, absent from the political grandstanding that so often accompanies such newsworthy events.  Listening, understanding, and finding a supportive role is where City Council leadership can facilitate progress.  If my colleagues wish to support the community, I suggest they start by participating in the many events, opportunities and occasions that the diverse LGBTQ2S community invites them to each year.

Tristan Downe-Dewdney

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