Pride Toronto executive director says he did not agree to remove police floats from parade
Rachael D'Amore , CTV Toronto
Published Monday, July 4, 2016 11:40AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 4, 2016 2:19PM EDT
The executive director of Pride Toronto says he did not agree to exclude Toronto Police Service floats from future Pride Parades after signing off on a list of demands presented by Black Lives Matter-Toronto on Sunday.
During yesterday’s Toronto Pride Parade, members of Black Lives Matter-Toronto staged a sit-in protest which brought the annual parade to a stand-still for some time.
The group insisted that Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois sign off on a list of demands pertaining to the organization and funding of Pride Toronto in conjunction with the city’s Black LGBTQ community.
The demands included that police floats no longer participate in the parade, that pride organizers commit to space, funding and support for the group Black Queer Youth and that organizers vow to increase the amount of Black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters for the event.
The parade was unable to start again until Chantelois signed the list.
On Monday, Chantelois told CP24 that he did not agree to remove the police floats, rather he committed to having a conversation about the issues Black Lives Matter-Toronto presented in their demands. He said most of the other demands were "reasonable."
“Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us there is no more floats anymore in the parade,” Chantelois said.
“I will not tell you there is no more floats in the parade because Pride is bigger than Black Lives Matter. It is definitely bigger than me and my committee. That is the kind of decision that needs to be made by the community.”
Chantelois said that both parties ‘agreed to bring the conversation to the community and membership.’
“But at the end of the day,” he added, “if my membership says ‘no way, we want to have floats,’ they decide.”
According to Chantelois, Black Lives Matter-Toronto organized two other sit-ins at other Pride marches in the city over the weekend.
Though he wasn’t shocked by the protest on Sunday, he said the document of demands was unexpected.
“My priority yesterday was to make the parade move. We had a million people waiting, including people from marginalized communities. The show and the parade had to go on,” he said.
“Frankly, they could have sent me an email and I would have agreed to all these things.”
In a statement, Pride Toronto commended the protest, calling it an “opportunity to continue the conversation with them.”
“We selected Black Lives Matter-TO for the important work they are doing in our city and to highlight the work of Black queer and Trans activists. During the parade, BLM-TO started a conversation with us to explore how we can create an even more inclusive and safe festival,” the statement reads.
“We, like BLM-TO, have a commitment to ensure our most marginalized communities feel safe and welcome at the festival.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders was tight-lipped about the demands on Monday, saying he needed to speak with Pride organizers before commenting.
“Right now, it’s all speculation. I’m waiting for a Pride executive to contact me. Until I’m informed of the circumstances, there really isn’t much I can say around it,” Saunders said Monday.
“Once I hear from them, I’ll have an opportunity to talk to them on exactly what my feelings are, what my concerns or issues are, if there are any.”
“Yesterday’s parade was a fantastic parade," he added. "The feedback was tremendous. Everyone that attended had an amazing time. The vast majority of the public said nothing but positive things about the parade and with this issue, like I said, once I speak with the executive, then I’ll be able to talk to you.”
Following Sunday’s protest, Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said the Pride parade had been “hijacked” by Black Lives Matter. He cautioned that a lack of police participation in Pride Toronto could have serious negative consequences for the relationship between the police and the community.
“There’s no other way to describe it,” he said. “This is not what this event is about. This is about inclusiveness, it’s about community and now they’ve attempted to drive a wedge in that community.”