LGBTQ Toronto officers ask city to cut Pride funding due to police ban
Rachael D'Amore, CTV Toronto
Published Wednesday, April 19, 2017 12:33PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:34PM EDT
LGBTQ members of the Toronto Police Service say they would feel “completely de-valued” and “unsupported” by the city if Pride Toronto is granted its annual $260,000 in funding.
Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, dropped off a letter at city hall Wednesday morning on behalf of the TPS’s ‘Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Internal Support Network Executive Committee.’
In the letter, the group asks the city to consider withholding money set aside for this year’s Pride.
“At our request, we would like the Association to consider sharing with the mayor and city councillors that we, as city employees, would feel completely de-valued and unsupported by our employer should they fund this event at this time,” the letter reads.
“How can we possibly feel appreciated by our employer while they sponsor an event that its own employees have been disinvited from participating in as full, equal, and active participants in their role as city employees. We can think of no examples in Canada where either a public or private employer has been a lead sponsor for an event their employees were asked not to participate in.”
Mayor Tory weighed in on Wednesday, but would not say if he would support the elimination of the grant given to Pride Toronto.
“I think the best way to resolve this is the way they are trying to resolve it now, which is for Pride and the police service in particular to be meeting with each other and having these discussions,” he said.
“I don’t think it is the day to start making noise about funding or in-kind services. We will let those discussions take their course.”
Tory added that he respects the fact that some officers felt excluded and that he wanted them to “feel included again, and be included again.”
The saga between Toronto police and Pride started in July of 2016 when members of Black Lives Matter-Toronto disrupted the parade for approximately 30 minutes with a sit-in protest.
There, the now former executive director of Pride Mathieu Chantelois signed a list of demands put forward by BLM members. One of the demands called for Pride organizers to ban police floats and booths at future parades and marches.
BLM said that the presence of police officers in uniform are a trigger for a community that has faced unfair and sometimes violent treatment from police services across North America.
“There's no reason for this letter. Like we said time and time again, individual queer Toronto police members can come to the parade -- but not represent Toronto police as an institution,” said Black Lives Matters’ Hashim Yussuf.
Police officers would be allowed to participate but in civilian dress and only as part of non-police floats.
In February, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced that the service would not participate in the annual Pride parade.
Saunders’ decision came on the heels of Pride Toronto’s Annual General Meeting where members voted in favour of a motion to adopt the same list of demands made by Black Lives Matter-Toronto.
Though the demands included the banning of police floats from the annual parade, Pride Toronto’s executive director Olivia Nuamah reiterated that TPS members are still welcome to march in the parade “as members or allies” of the community.
The letter distributed today goes on to say members hope to restore a relationship “that cultivates a more respectful police-community partnership in Pride” in the future.
“However, when any city employee, regardless of their job function, is disinvited from an event hosted in the City of Toronto, we feel it is simply a conflict of interest, and unacceptable, that the City of Toronto remain a sponsor,” it reads.
McCormack said the letter reveals how TPS members truly feel about the decision.
“These are members that have decades of dedicated service to the Toronto Police Service and to the community, building these relationships,” he said.
“I’ve been asked, ‘How do our member feel about what’s going on? How do they feel as police officers who have been disinvited to this event?’ It’s not about lowering the temperature. Our officers have been told they’re not welcome. This is how they feel and I’m here to advocate and speak on behalf of our officers. People have asked me how they feel -- that’s how they feel.”
Last month, Coun. John Campbell told reporters that he was considering putting forth a motion that would ask staff to withhold Pride’s grant until the group can reaffirm “their value of inclusivity.”
“I expect the city of Toronto to listen to their constituents and let’s see what happens,” McCormack continued. “But again, this is not a conversation we should be having. We should be talking about inclusivity; we should be talking about what a great event Pride is. We’re not the ones who put it in this position. You should ask that question to the people who disinvited police and wanted to have no uniformed police presence.”
Speaking to CP24 in February, Chief Saunders said TPS being disinvited to Pride doesn’t mean the relationship between the two is broken. He called the decision an “opportunity” to develop a stronger one.