30 MAY 2017: Toronto police have received an invitation to participate in uniform at the New York City Pride March next month. The invitation comes amid a controversy over the exclusion of uniformed officers from Toronto's Pride Parade.  

The Gay Officers Action League in New York requested permission for Toronto officers to join uniformed members of the NYPD Marching band and colour guard in the June 25th Pride March in New York City — the same day as Toronto's own Pride Parade.

Reports have said that at least 60 officers will accept the invitation, and that they will be responsible for their own travel expenses.

The controversy over police participation in the Toronto event began at last year's parade, when the group Black Lives Matter halted the parade and refused to budge until a list of demands was signed — one of them being the exclusion of uniformed officers from the parade.

The group argued that some communities, particularly black and transgendered people, do not feel safe around police officers.  Really? At the Pride Parade?

The parade director at the time, Mathieu Chantelois, signed the list to get the parade moving, but later recanted and said the organization was not bound by the demands. Nontheless, uniformed Toronto police will not be permitted to march in this year’s parade.

Many in the LGBT community are furious at the exclusion of the police who have played a prominent and positive role in Toronto Pride Parades. A large number of the community intend to boycott the Toronto parade this year.

In a mealy-mouthed statement, Pride Toronto has attempted to play down their offensive and odious stance.

The statement claims to clarify that police are not banned, that they are invited to participate with select conditions and that they will be providing necessary services to ensure the festival is secure.

It says:

“LGBTQ+ police officers and their allies are not banned from the parade. We welcome and encourage their participation to add to Pride this year as members of our community. LGBTQ+ police officers and their allies (allies? curious choice of word - why not friends or family) can march in the Parade with community groups, with the City of Toronto, or even create their own group.

“We are simply requesting that their participation not include the following elements: uniform, weapons, and vehicles.

“The Toronto Police Service has been involved and supportive to us throughout our festival planning. They will provide all the necessary services to ensure that the festival weekend and parade are secure and successful.”

Yes, indeed, the Toronto police will, regardless of Pride Toronto’s repulsive decision, provide “all the necessary services.”

Is there no one at Pride Toronto with any courage or integrity? No one who felt they could stand up and say – this is wrong! To insist that Toronto police are part of the parade. Are part of the community, and straight and gay officers have marched in the parade for years and they belong there.

Rather than stand for what was right, you decided to exclude rather than include? What happened to diversity? To fairness? To integrity? To support for the police who have supported you? To friendship?  You should be ashamed of yourselves.

“We are simply requesting that their participation not include the following elements: uniform, weapons, and vehicles.”

Give me a bloody break!  

What hypocrisy! That's akin to telling gay friends you support them as long as they are in the closet. 

When you are in trouble and need the police - you want them uniformed, armed and in a vehicle.

Despite the exclusion, Toronto city councillors voted 27-17 to give Pride Toronto $260,000 in funding. That too is a disgrace.

That prominent figures in the community such as Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and Pastor Brent Hawkes support the decision is mind-boggling.

Wong-Tam reportedly said the debate focused on what rights police should have, doesn't address the issue that led to the situation.

"What I think is missing … is the conversation of how do you actually improve policing relations? How do you hold police accountable to this minority community? And how do you actually create an opportunity for forward dialogue?"

All very well, councillor, but that’s obfuscating the current issue. Yes, the questions should be asked, and Pride Toronto has had ample time to do and discuss that as it applied to the LGBT community. But now you’re choosing one group over another and to support the exclusion of uniformed police - who will be required to be working the events - is a discredit to the council.

Hawkes said Pride is being held to an unreasonable standard, "you have to wonder what else is going on here."

This is disingenuous beyond belief for a man who has fought for LGBT rights.

The Toronto police will provide the services required at Toronto’s Pride Parade. But one can only hope that those who go to New York to march proudly in uniform for the Pride Parade in that city, have a wonderful weekend. I wish I could be in the crowd cheering them on.

One thing is certain, for the first time in many years I will not attend any Pride activities in my own city, nor at the Toronto Pride Parade as it passes 100 yards from my door.

 

Police at Pride Parades
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