Toronto police union wants Pride funding pulled - Macleans.ca
 

Toronto police union wants Pride funding pulled

Pride Toronto adopted a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, including banning police floats from the parade


 
Revellers march in the Toronto Pride Parade on July 3, 2016.

Revellers march in the Toronto Pride Parade on July 3, 2016.

TORONTO — The union representing Toronto’s police officers is urging the city to pull an annual grant to Canada’s largest Pride parade after the event banned police floats.

In an open letter released by the union Wednesday, a committee representing LGBTQ officers in the force said it would be unacceptable for the city to give the roughly $260,000 grant to an event that excludes certain municipal employees.

The committee said officers would feel completely devalued and unsupported by the city if the funding continued.

The plea comes weeks after a similar call from a Toronto city councillor, who said the grant should be voted down until the city’s Pride parade returns to its “core principals of equity and inclusivity.”

In January, Pride Toronto adopted a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, including banning police floats from the parade.

MORE: Toronto police won’t take part in Pride parade, says chief

Members of the anti-racism group held a sit-in part way through the parade last July, stopping it from moving forward for about a half hour, until Pride organizers signed the list of demands.

Black Lives Matter said it opposed police presence in the parade because it could discourage marginalized communities from participating.

About a month after Pride Toronto’s ruling, Toronto’s police chief announced the force would not be participating in the annual event this year, citing divisions within the LGBTQ community as a key motivator.

The city still provides policing, transportation and other services for the Pride parade, which would not be affected even if the grant is revoked.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, read the open letter Wednesday at city hall, where he was set to deliver it to Mayor John Tory.

“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,” he read.

“We can think of no example 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.”

The issue of police participation in Pride parades has also emerged in other Canadian cities in recent months.

The Vancouver Pride Society has asked officers in that city to show up in fewer numbers and without their uniforms at the request of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.

Halifax police have also announced they would pull out of the city’s Pride parade this year in light of the “national debate” about law enforcement participation in such events.


 

Toronto police union wants Pride funding pulled

  1. If you’re going to bite the hand, don’t expect it to feed you.

  2. Historically, police and gay communities everywhere, to put it mildly, have often not seen eye-to-eye on many issues. Not so long ago, members of the police force actively harassed, intimidated, beat and jailed members of the gay community. It’s understandable if there are present members of the gay community, in Toronto, and elsewhere, who do not see police officers as their allies. While efforts have been made to build bridges, there is still a lot of work to be done. As someone who does not see the police as, necessarily, “our friends”, I felt very uncomfortable and intimidated by the strong police presence at last year’s Toronto Pride. At the intersection of Church and Carlton Streets, several area police forces had set up booths, all in a row, across from their many police vehicles. It was an area I did not want to be in, and considering it was Pride, and I wanted to experience a pleasant time, I was saddened that the police presence was so blatantly obvious.

    Members of the police force have not been banned from participating in Toronto Pride. They are welcome to participate as every other individual citizen is welcome to participate. They have been asked not to have floats in the parade, and that decision has been made to create an environment where people who have not always been comfortable or felt welcome at Pride can feel included. The police will be there for sure. After all, they do a great job most of the time at what they are paid to do – police the event, as do the firefighters who work that day, the paramedics, and the thousands of unpaid volunteers.

    The timing of this letter from the police union is interesting, coinciding with some on city council calling for Pride to be defunded by the city. Sounds more like politics and a money-saving effort, than “hurt feelings” by some on the police force’s special committee, who may not be able to staff a float in the parade but can certainly continue to participate.

  3. While I can understand that some people have had bad experiences with the police, it seems an odd way to try to build a better relationship by telling them that the efforts they are making to reach out to the LGBT community aren’t going to be permitted. This is even stranger when some of the police participating in the parade are themselves members of the LGBT community.
    I agree that it would be very strange for a municipality to sponsor, to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars, an activity that doesn’t welcome their participation in the event. They are saying that the city can still send EMS staff to protect the parade’s participants by providing the services they’re mandated to do and would do at any major event whether or not they sponsored it. That’s hardly a ‘concession’ on the part of Toronto Pride.
    Doesn’t it make sense to interact in a positive environment with people with whom you need to reshape your relationship? It has a parallel in youth clubs in vulnerable neighbourhoods that the police work in to develop positive connections with kids and young people. The understanding that is built on the basketball court carries over into other parts of the youngsters’ lives and help develop healthier communities.
    What are people afraid will result from hanging out together having fun for a day?

    • You will notice that nowhere in my comments do I refer specifically to BLM or BLMTO, or their tactics or actions. My comments come from my own experiences over many years, as a white, gay, male, with the police. I do not support or endorse all of the tactics or actions of BLM or BLMTO. I do, however, understand where they are coming from, and how, as a last resort at times, they have chosen some of their tactics and actions. Communities that have historically been targeted by the police, such as the gay community, the black community, the indigenous community (and those communities are not mutually exclusive) will eventually fight back. You can not be harassed, intimidated, beaten, and jailed for years, simply because you are gay, and/or black, and/or indigenous and not at some point try to find your voice and fight for your rights. Think of Stonewall in NYC. The bathhouse raids in Toronto. The “pussy palace” raids in Toronto. The civil rights movements around the globe in the 50’s/60’s/70’s. All marginalized groups finding their voices, fighting for their rights, while the institutions around them, including the police, tried to keep them silent. Control them. Keep them in their place. Resistant to the changing world.
      The police will be at Pride, wearing their uniforms while they work at trying to keep everyone “safe”. Alongside them will be firefighters, paramedics, TTC staff, thousands of unpaid volunteers. All working to contribute to an enjoyable time.
      The (off-duty) police can participate in Pride as can anyone – as private citizens. They do not need to have a float, or group their booths together in one spot, or wear their uniforms while off duty to express their support for GAY pride. As much as the police can be seen to be working for the “good”, they do use tactics such as harassment and initimidation to exert their power and get their way. The same tactics many accuse BLM and BLMTO of using. The difference is the police have the power – to beat and jail people.
      As for the city funding Pride… Every year someone or some group threatens to defund Pride for one reason or another. Same old, same old. These same people or groups are very often fiscal and/or social conservatives who do not see the city having a role in funding any group or event, particularly something as “decadent” as Pride. What about the city funds (actual dollars and in-kind support) that are used to support any number of groups and events around the city, throughout the year? Where are the cries to cut all that funding?