A city councillor’s motion to withhold $260,000 in annual funding to Pride Toronto failed to pass in council on Friday afternoon.
At Pride's annual general meeting in January, the majority of those who attended voted in favour of a number of demands from Black Lives Matter – Toronto, including a ban on including uniformed police, police floats and booths at the pride parade.
Though Pride Toronto has since made it clear that non-uniformed officers are welcome at the parade, Coun. John Campbell says that he believes that the event is excluding city employees and therefore should not receive funding from the municipality.
Campbell’s motion, which was tabled on Friday morning, asks that the $260,000 grant given to Pride Toronto be “conditional upon Pride Toronto reaffirming its core value of inclusivity by welcoming uniformed officers from Toronto police to participate as they wish in the parade celebrations.”
Council voted 27-17 against the motion, meaning Pride Toronto’s 2017 municipal funding is no longer under threat.
Campbell introduced the motion as council debated $7,914,695 in grant money to 10 cultural organizations, including Pride Toronto.
The motion also calls for staff to conduct a review of the major cultural organizations program’s guidelines to ensure they support the goal of inclusivity.
After the vote, Campbell told CP24 he was disappointed at council’s decision and the message it says to gay and lesbian police officers.
“I’m particularly disappointed for the gay and lesbian police officers who wanted to be part of this year’s parade. Being a police officer and coming out as a police officer takes a lot of courage and it’s part of their identity and what Pride has done is said ‘suppress your identity, don’t come as you are’.”
Mayor Tory has previously said that he wants to see uniformed officers marching in the parade but he has also pleaded for patience to allow for discussions between police and Pride Toronto’s leadership.
“I believe that the police should be included in Pride but the way to get that to happen is not by cutting of the funding and that has been confirmed to me by both the police chief and the head of Pride,” Tory told CP24 on Friday morning. “I want to see them resolve the issue and I think we should continue the funding and make sure that we have a very successful inclusive parade this year.”
Though both Toronto police and Pride Toronto have indicated a willingness to enter into discussions, Campbell said there is “really no discussions going on.”
The executive director for Pride Toronto, however, rejected that claim.
“The police and Pride Toronto are working together closely. We are actually in constant communication,” Olivia Nuamah told reporters at city hall. “The police have been very supportive towards us in giving us some time to think about what we do next. The thought that we are not working together and not communicating is actually completely false.”
After the vote, Pride Toronto co-chair Alicia Hall said it was a closer margin than she had expected but overall councillors expressed appreciation for Pride’s value to the city.
“Overall what the city and the councilors today showed was very expressive support of the role that we play in making this city both a safe space and contributing economically to the city as well.”
Campbell said his motion isn’t about “stripping pride of money” and rather is just about suspending the funding until “they reaffirm their value of inclusivity.”
“I am not hard and fast about this,” he said. “I haven’t said there has to be police floats and cruisers. I would be even happy if they could find a way to let 20 or 25 officers on bikes to participate.”
Staff urge council to support grant
While Campbell contends that he does have “allies” who support him in wanting to suspend funding to Pride Toronto, city staff are urging council to approve the grant.
In a report, staff point out that “being a uniformed police officer is not a a ground of discrimination protected by the Human Rights Code or the City's Human Rights Policy.”
Furthermore, staff say that by withholding funding based on who is and who is not allowed to march in the Pride Parade, the city would be setting a dangerous precedent in terms of its “involvement in the internal operations of a cultural organization.”
“With a new management and board in place, Pride Toronto and the Toronto Police Service should be given an opportunity for dialogue and future cooperation that is focused on rebuilding and restoring relations,” the staff report says.
GO Transit special constables won’t march in uniforms
While Campbell pushes for uniformed police officers to be allowed to march at the annual Pride Parade, Metrolinx is instructing its special constables and fare inspectors not to wear their uniforms to the event.
In a statement released on Friday afternoon, Metrolinx said that it has decided out of “an abundance of caution and respect” not to have its special constables and fare inspectors participating in the parade while wearing their uniforms.
“We still expect lots of Metrolinx staff to participate and we will have a GO bus and GO bear as usual. We don’t want the uniform to cause any confusion and detract from a very positive community event,” the statement says.
Metrolinx says it will revisit its decision next year.