Toronto’s LGBTQ officers are asking the city to withhold their funding contribution for Toronto’s Pride parade after festival organizers banned police from participating in the 2017 version of the event.
The LGBTQ internal support network executive committee presented a letter detailing their wishes to Toronto police union boss Mike McCormack on Wednesday who in turn delivered it to city hall.
The request asks the Toronto police association to reach out to Mayor John Tory and city councillors to convey the message that the network would “feel completely de-valued and unsupported” by the continuation of city funding for the event.
The letter from the internal support network goes on to say that it makes little sense to their committee for their employer to sponsor a promotion they’ve banned from.
“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.”
The move by LGBTQ officers comes three weeks after Toronto Coun. John Campbell put the bug in city council’s head with a motion to pull the annual municipal grant for Pride Toronto if officers continue to be excluded from participating.
Currently, the city provides a $260,000 grant to fund the parade.
Campbell’s idea came about after Pride Toronto members voted in January to remove police floats from the parade following pressure from Black Lives Matter Toronto. So far the motion has not yet been tabled at any city council session.
In an interview with AM640’s The John Oakley Show, Campbell re-affirmed his support for pulling the grant saying that when the city gives money to special interest groups, “there are expectations tied to that.”
“I don’t feel that the city of Toronto should be providing money to an organization that is going exclude a very important part of Toronto,” said Campbell, “What they’re (council) is trying to do is build bridges not tear them down.”
The Canadian chapter of Black Lives Matter brought the 2016 parade to a halt with a sit-in at the intersection of Yonge and College which resulted in a 30-minute stoppage.
Members of the African-American movement then presented Pride Toronto’s organizers with a list of nine demands intended to curb a “history of anti-blackness” which included a ban on police floats in future parades.
Speaking after an executive committee meeting on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory re-iterated his stance for further dialogue among all the parties involved.
“I support the inclusion of police in pride on terms that can be sorted out”, Tory told reporters at city hall, “I don’t think today’s the day for a threat or ultimatum, or anything like that. I think it’s the day to continue those discussions and for me to encourage those groups to continue talking to each other and encourage those groups to find a resolution.”
When AM640 reached out to Pride Toronto for their reaction to the potential termination of the funding, the festival organizer replied in a written statement.
“We appreciate the concerns brought forward by the LGBTQ officers network – while the Toronto Police Service will not participate in the Parade this year, individual LGBTQ police officers and their allies are invited to march.”
“This year, through our theme and programming, we hope space can be created to talk about the ways each of us adds to Pride. This includes the important ongoing conversations with the Toronto Police Service about how their relationship with our community can be strengthened.”
“Toronto City Council has provided valuable support to Pride through funding and support services. In turn, we provide the largest economic impact of any festival in the City. We hope this reality will be front of mind for Council as they consider our funding this year.”
Meanwhile, former Toronto police chief and AM640 contributor Julian Fantino said believes police are an integral part of the community and should not be devalued by special interest groups.
“I’m all for special interest, but when they trump the greater public good, I think it’s time for politicians to step in,” Fantino told AM640’s Tasha Kheiriddin. “The men and women of the Toronto Police Service are the lifeline to the community and should be made welcome.”