Pride Toronto recently made the decision to remove Toronto Police floats and booths from Pride Month in 2017. The decision was taken at the Pride Toronto Annual General Meeting, along with the election of several new board members. The decision does not come without concerns and in the near future we most likely will be faced with a recurring challenge – a threat to revoke the City of Toronto's funding for the festival.
The demands of BLMTO did not emerge out of a vacuum. For years there have been grievances that have not risen to the level of broad public awareness, but continued to create friction. Some of these related to Pride Toronto's programming and leadership decisions, while others were about the Toronto Police Service's engagement with marginalized, trans, and racialized communities. In 2016, BLMTO made itself heard loudly with its demands at the Pride Parade and in several events organized across the city. BLMTO has many legitimate concerns that need ongoing attention and sincere engagement.
Today, Police Chief Mark Saunders has issued a helpful statement on this matter. The TPS will not be participating in this year's Pride Parade. I recognize that this would not have been an easy decision for him. Whether or not the TPS should be involved in the parade in the longer term is an open discussion, but Chief Saunders' decision explicitly provides the community with space in 2017 to address the issue without the constraint of a June deadline.
Now, as Pride Toronto re-builds capacity and fills many vacant positions, including that of Executive Director, there are several questions to be answered. How will Pride Toronto and the Toronto Police move forward with the decision taken at the AGM for Pride celebrations into future years? Will the Pride Board work with the Toronto Police to convene the necessary meetings to address the issues many in the community are concerned about resulting in this decision? I look forward to meeting with Pride Toronto's leadership team, once an ED has been hired, to review these matters and understand how I, City Council, and the Toronto Police can help mend these relationships.