Pride Toronto’s funding from the City of Toronto could be in jeopardy if one city councillor moves forward with a proposed motion at an upcoming city council meeting.
Coun. John Campbell told CP24 Tuesday that he is considering putting forward a motion that asks staff to hold off issuing Pride’s $260,000 grant until the group can reaffirm “their value of inclusivity.”
During last summer’s Pride Parade, members of Black Lives Matter- Toronto halted the parade until organizers signed off on a list of demands, which included a ban on police floats and booths in future parades.
At Pride's annual general meeting in January, the majority of those who attended voted in favour of adopting all of Black Lives Matter- Toronto’s demands.
“As a city councillor, I don’t feel our council should be condoning the activities that took place and by just handing over the grant as if nothing had happened. We would just be turning a blind eye and that doesn’t sit right with me,” Campbell said.
“Unless we see some sort of action to bring the two sides together or at least talk about having some sort of role for police, then I will bring forward a motion asking Pride to look at reaffirming their value of inclusivity because right now they have tossed that aside with respect to the police,” Campbell told CP24 outside city hall Tuesday.
Speaking with CP24 Tuesday afternoon, Pride Toronto Executive Director Olivia Nuamah said the city funding is significant for the festival.
“We are planning a festival better than any that we’ve had previously. Obviously we want the city’s support so $260,000 means a lot to us,” Nuamah said.
However she added that the organization is in the midst of a process to create “an environment that would allow us to have constructive dialogue.”
“What we think it’s about is working in partnership, working together to try to find solutions to some of these very difficult issues,” Nuamah said. “The police kindly chose to withdraw. They chose to do so to give us time to plan and to think about what we were going to do next and that’s exactly what we’re going to spend the time doing.”
Nuamah said Pride Toronto met with Toronto police this week to plan this year’s festival and despite some talk earlier in the year that security planning was behind, the event is “on-track.”
“The police are heavily involved in making sure that the festival is safe for everyone, that festival-goers feel it’s a place they feel safe to come and know that they’re going to be taken care of. And the police are utterly committed to making sure that happens,” she said.
Reacting to the motion, Black Lives Matter-Toronto co-founder Janaya Khan told TRhe Canadian Press that the move demonstrates a lack of understanding about what led to the demands around police participation.
“What is missing is a real understanding of what it means to be a racialized person in this city, and the fear that exists in your body when you are around a police officer,” Khan said. “The institution of policing discriminates people based on race.”
Motion already met with opposition at council
Campbell said Tuesday that members of the mayor’s office and some fellow councillors have asked him to hold off presenting the motion.
In a tweet sent out Tuesday morning, Coun. Shelley Carroll said constructive conversations are taking place.
“Please leave this attention-getting motion out of it,” Carroll wrote.
Campbell denied the suggestion that he was seeking attention with his motion.
“My plan was to always wait and see what happened. So Coun. Carroll is fine to say that. I don’t know that maybe she knows that constructive discussions are taking place. I haven’t heard that,” he said.
“Certainly before I bring anything forward I will be asking some questions and I’ll see if the two sides have been talking.”
Campbell said the motion could come before council as early as next month.
Asked about the situation with Pride Toronto, Police Chief Mark Saunders said the police service is working to "mend any of those bridges that need to be mended."
"What’s been brought to my attention is that there are segments that, whether real or perceived, feel marginalized and so we are in the process of doing what we need to do to sit across the table and have those discussions," Saunders told reporters Tuesday.
"The Pride Parade is theirs and they do with it what they will... We are in the process of looking at that marginalized section of the community to develop and strengthen relationships."
-With files from the Canadian Press