October 16, 2018 9:47 am
Updated: October 17, 2018 12:51 am

Toronto police allowed to take part in 2019 Pride parade, organizers say

WATCH ABOVE: Two years after a demonstration that disrupted the Toronto Pride parade and demands that police no longer participate, organizers are now welcoming them back. Sean O'Shea reports.

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After a two-year exclusion, Toronto police officers will once again be allowed to march in the upcoming Toronto Pride parade, granted they meet application rules, organizers said on Tuesday.

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In a statement to community members, Pride Toronto said the decision to allow Toronto police to participate in the 2019 parade was made following a period of “co-operation and collaboration.”

“For many members of our communities, this decision will feel premature; we may not all see the same signs of a mending relationship,” Pride Toronto said.

“Indeed, some of the change is subtle and some just getting underway. We are heartened that the seeds are being planted, but we acknowledge and respect those who will find this decision a difficult one.”

READ MORE: Pride Toronto asks police to withdraw application to march in 2018 parade

Pride Toronto asked Toronto police to withdraw their application last summer citing rifts between the LGBTQ community and officers following the deaths of seven people, allegedly at the hands of accused serial killer Bruce McArthur.

Community leaders said police had not done enough in their investigations of missing men from the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.

“Certainly what Bruce McArthur did was raise a number of issues that the police have taken up themselves and of course I can’t speak to those issues because we’re not investigating those crimes,” Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah said during a news conference attended by Mayor John Tory and Chief Mark Saunders on Tuesday.

“What we have done is said as a result of the investigation, it’s incumbent on us to work more closely together to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.”

In 2017, police were also denied the opportunity to participate in the Pride parade after organizers voted to ban uniformed officers and police floats.

Police participation was put into question after the Toronto chapter of the Black Lives Matter group staged a sit-in in the 2016 parade that halted the event for nearly 30 minutes.

WATCH: A look back at the Toronto Pride, Toronto Police dispute

READ MORE: Toronto mayor defends police chief over alleged victim-blaming in Bruce McArthur case

One of the group’s co-founders said at the time they were opposed to having a “militarized” police presence at the parade and would prefer officers take part in the festivities without their uniform and guns.

Pride Toronto said Tuesday that their organization and police have since started on a new path of understanding.

“Over the past two years, the question of police participation in the Parade has created a valuable space to talk about the queer experiences that intersect with issues of policing and institutional power,” the statement read.

“When we receive an application from the Toronto Police Service, we will review the application and provided they meet our Rules of Parade Entry, they will be granted a marching permit for the 2019 parade.”

Organizers said they have yet to set the parameters for the police participation and it’s unknown at this time whether they will be allowed to carry their guns dressed in full uniform.

“We’re at the very early stages of that discussion and right now what we aren’t going to do is focus on the details of what might or might not happen in the parade, but know that we will talk these things through and in the end,” Nuamah said.

“What we are doing is permitting the police to march on the basis, not only that they submit their application, but until that happens we really can’t have a conversation of what might or might not be permitted.”

READ MORE: Toronto police officers will not be allowed to wear uniforms at unofficial Pride event

Saunders said the conversations that took place between police and the LGBTQ community was a long process, and is going to continue going forward.

“Marching in uniform in the Pride parade is an important event to not just show our support for the LGBTQ+ communities, but also to the proud members of the Toronto Police Service that are within the LGBTQ+ community,” Saunders said.

“So it really means a lot to us as an organization and also as a community as a whole.”

Organizers said they will continue to seek institutional change from police with the goal of creating a more inclusive community.

“This decision is made in acknowledgment that Pride Toronto can only thrive through commitment to a diversity of efforts,” Pride Toronto said.

“The critical conversations that have been started will continue, fostered through the work of organizations in our community that we trust.”

VIDEO: Toronto Pride parade organizers say police welcome to participate with restrictions

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