In another blow to an already shaky relationship between Toronto’s LGBTQ community and officers, Pride Toronto has requested the Toronto Police Service to withdraw their application to march in June’s Pride Parade.
The letter, which was addressed to the ‘LGBTQ2S communities and the broader community of Toronto’ and signed by members of Pride Toronto, the 519, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Toronto People with AIDS Foundation and the Sherbourne Health Centre, was released Monday evening.
It cited the loss of seven community members, allegedly at the hands of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur, as part of the reason for the request.
“It is an incredibly complex and difficult time. The arrest of Bruce McArthur, the alleged serial killer, has added a new poignancy and a new pain to the fears that sit at the heart of anyone who lives a life of difference,” the letter read.
“At the end of June, we will come together as we have for decades and we will be seen. We will rally and rise, but it will be with heavy hearts as we have not yet begun to grapple with our anger, shock, and grief.”
Toronto police officers were banned from attending the parade in uniform last year. They also weren’t allowed to march with weapons, cruisers or police floats. But police had been hopeful after talks between officers and Pride Toronto had continued since last summer.
“I certainly came into the position very optimistic that they could have been a part of the parade this year,” Pride Toronto Executive Director Olivia Nuamah said.
“That would have continued to be the case were it not for the kind of series of events that took place in the course of about eight months.”
Many in the city’s LGBTQ community have openly criticized Toronto police on its handling of several cases of missing gay men, now alleged to be victims of McArthur.
In a February Globe and Mail article, Chief Mark Saunders was quoted saying police might have identified McArthur sooner if those who crossed paths with him come forward earlier.
“The individual stories and lived experiences of each of these people were unique. But what they did share what that the investigations into their disappearances were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns we were dismissed,” the letter released on Monday read.
“This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever.”
The group signing the note added that the two groups need to work together to regain trust and allow members of the LGBTQ community to feel safe.
“That will not be accomplished in one day. The relationship cannot be mended through a parade,” the letter said.
“Marching won’t contribute towards solving these issues — they are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures.”
Mayor John Tory’s office released a statement on the rift between the two sides Wednesday morning.
“Mayor Tory firmly believes this is a matter for the police and the LGBT2Q community to work out, with restored trust and collaboration as the number one priority,” Director of Communications Don Peat said.
Global News attempted to contact a spokesperson for Toronto Police, but a representative wasn’t immediately available for comment.
The 38th annual Pride Parade takes place on June 24.