Global News has learned Premier Doug Ford will not attend this year’s annual Toronto Pride parade.
In a statement to Global News, Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for Ford, said: “Premier Ford has always said he will attend Toronto’s Pride parade when our front-line police officers are allowed to participate in uniform. He wishes all the organizers of Pride Toronto all the best for a successful month and festival weekend.”
Pride Toronto said in its own statement that it was discouraged by Ford’s decision.
“We are disappointed that for the first time since 2013, the sitting Premier of Ontario will not be participating in the Toronto Pride Parade,” the statement read. “Premier Ford is the elected leader for all Ontarians … we all must bring more openness to these important conversations for this community if we are going to move forward.”
Uniformed officers were banned from marching in the parade back in 2017 after concerns of racial profiling. In 2018, the disappearance of men in Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village was among the reasons uniformed officers were once again banned.
In January, Pride members voted 163-161 to keep the ban in place.
“Why would anyone support a publicly funded event that is not inclusive,” said Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association.
WATCH: A look back at the Toronto Pride, Toronto Police dispute (Oct 16, 2018)
In 2013, former Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne made history by becoming the first premier to march in Toronto’s Pride parade, the largest in the country.
Wynne responded saying, “we can’t pretend that homophobia does not exist. It does.”
“It’s disappointing Premier Ford has decided not to attend. It is a lost opportunity to the LGBTQ2 community to make it clear that he stands with all of us,” said Wynne.
“Pride is an important event where we can celebrate and accept each other for who we are. It’s all about spreading love and building community. I’m looking forward to participating again this year. It’s unfortunate that the premier has made this choice,” said Ontario Liberal Party Interim Leader John Fraser.
A spokesperson for John Tory’s office said the Toronto mayor plans to attend the Pride parade this year “as he did for many years before that including during his time as provincial opposition leader.”
“He will also continue to be involved, in a constructive manner, to have police involved in the Pride parade,” said Tory’s office in a statement.
Leader of the Ontario Green Party Mike Schreiner also responded, saying he has proudly marched in the parade yearly and strongly believes that political leaders should stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ2 community.
“Attending the Pride parade should be an absolute no-brainer for any leader in 2019. Doug Ford’s decision to stay home is another indicator that he’s a premier from the last century. His absence adds to the mixed messaging his government has sent about its stance on LGBTQ2 rights since taking office,” said Schreiner.
Ford has never attended the Pride parade even in the years that police were allowed to participate in the event, saying it fell on a Ford family cottage weekend one year.