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COLUMN: Toronto Pride versus police participation


Once again Toronto Pride, City Hall and the police are at odds over police participation in the annual Pride parade to be held June 28.

This issue will just not go away and by all accounts seems to magnify the situation.

City council is about to vote on whether to grant $260,000 to assist the event. The thorn is the issue of police and Toronto Pride not being capable of solving this problem.

Last year Black Lives Matter stopped the parade in its tracks demanding the police be excluded from any future Pride parades. Organizers gave in to the demand and this continuing saga has not yet ended. Minority groups are often the target of police profiling, making a solution extremely difficult.

Saying the event had become exclusionary, a councillor suggested the grant should be revoked. The police union agreed and lamented that it would be unacceptable for the city to sponsor an event that shuts out certain municipal employees. Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory supports the funding and said Toronto Pride and Police Chief Mark Saunders feels not awarding the grant would not solve the issue.

Toronto Pride has stated that police officers would be welcome to take part in the parade as civilians rather than in an official capacity. No uniforms, cruisers or weapons. In that case, the participation would not represent police, but indeed ordinary citizens, similar to onlookers.

Olivia Nuamah, Pride’s executive director, insists all sides have the same goal and further states, “We are going to be trying incredibly hard to dampen down the vitriolic nature of this conversation, to be honest with you, to make it more about the cohesion which we all seek.”

Toronto is not alone in its fight with police. Halifax and Vancouver have similar issues. To solve these unfortunate situations dialogue is the only way to a positive solution. Blaming each other only serves to further the divisions.

I have referred to this ongoing problem in previous columns. Conflicts such as these do nothing to heal, instead will add to divisions that have existed for centuries. Where are the sincere talks to lessen, or indeed extinguish the fires that just keep on burning out of control? As a society, we must continue efforts to heal.

Many of us contribute our time in order to educate, to raise awareness so that we are able to lead lives in a society that respects and appreciates the differences and the unique qualities we possess. We are responsible, each of us, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, to enrich the lives of all. Canadians are regarded as tolerant and accepting, but as we learn of stories where Pride celebrations and the police are at odds and determined to be divisive, we fully realize the work ahead is full of twists and turns.

We march ahead regardless and live in the hope dialogue will someday lead to understanding and a peaceful coexistence. Pride celebrations are here to recognize gains the LGBTQ members of society have garnered and also realistically realize the road to equality has not yet ended. We continue in our efforts to bring stability in our communities and know we are, each of us, a member of human kind and remember equal rights are human rights.

Comments and information: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

 

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News.

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