Sunday’s Pride parade was historic for the city in many ways.
It was the first time a sitting Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, marched alongside thousands of members of the LGBTQ community and its allies. It was also the first time Black Lives Matter Toronto did the same, leading a passionate procession down Bloor and Yonge Streets.
When their members reached College Street they stopped, sat down, and ground the parade to halt. As thousands along the route wondered about the delay, members of Black Lives Matter issued demands to organizers. One of them was for the removal of all police floats in the future – a significant request considering the police’s popularity and presence in Canada’s largest pride parade.
Police and Black Lives Matter have been at constant odds over carding, which disproportionately targets black youth, and the shooting deaths of black men like Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby.
Today’s action, “signifies a return to Pride’s political roots,” said co-founder Janaya Khan, who added one of the aims of the group is to draw attention to racism within the LGBTQ community.
“We see things recurring like racism, particularly certain types of oppression against trans people. So our job is to point out that it’s either all of us or none of us.”
Pride Toronto Executive Director, Mathieu Chantelois, met with the group and signed all their demands according to Black Lives Matter’s co-founders Sandy Hudson and Rodney Diverlus.
- Commit to BQY’s (Black Queer Youth) continued space (including stage/tents), funding, and logistical support.
- Self-determination for all community spaces, allowing community full control over hiring, content, and structure of their stages.
- Full and adequate funding for community stages, including logistical, technical, and personnel support.
- Double funding for Blockorama (to $13,000 + ASL interpretation & headliner funding).
- Reinstate and make a commitment to increase community stages/spaces (including the reinstatement of the South Asian stage).
- A commitment to increase representation amongst Pride Toronto staffing/hiring, prioritizing black trans women, indigenous people, and others from vulnerable communities.
- A commitment to more black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters for the festival.
- Removal of police floats in the pride marches/parades.
- A public townhall, organized in conjunction with groups from marginalized communities, including, but not limited to, Black Lives Matter- Toronto, Blackness Yes, and BQY to be held six months from today. Pride Toronto will present an update and action plan on the aforementioned demands.
“During the parade, BLM-TO started a conversation with us to explore how we can create an even more inclusive and safe festival,” wrote Pride Toronto in a statement to Global News. “We, like BLM-TO have a commitment to ensure our most marginalized communities feel safe and welcome at the festival. We welcome this opportunity to continue the conversation with them.”
Online some seemed unhappy about the decision to accommodate the demands.
But others were supportive of Pride Toronto’s decision to broaden support for the black community and remove police floats from future parades.
At an open-air religious service on Church Street prior to the start of the parade, Reverend Brent Hawkes spoke of the need to actively welcome everyone within the LGBTQ tent – especially people of colour. He cautioned those who bandy the slogan “all lives matter” as an attempt to discredit the black queer movement.
Leaders of all three levels of government sat at the front row as Hawkes gave the speech.
When asked about Black Lives Matter’s inclusion in the parade, Premier Kathleen Wynne said, “I think it’s great. I think what Pride tries to do is celebrate, but also profile groups that are advocating for change and more inclusivity and that is what this is about.”
“It’s a reminder that we have lots to do and that Black Lives Matter and their message is something that we all have to take to heart,” said Mayor John Tory.
It’s unclear, however, whether both politicians were aware the group was planning a sit-in and seeking to purge the parade of police marchers. Officers will still be present to enforce security at future parades.