Mayor John Tory says he will not support a motion to withhold city funding for Pride Toronto as a result of the organization’s ban on uniformed police officers at this year’s parade.
Coun. John Campbell says he will be presenting a motion at this month’s council meeting asking for support to withhold a $260,000 grant that has historically been awarded to Pride Toronto for the annual festivities.
Pride Toronto has said the city’s police officers can only participate in this year’s parade if they ditch their uniforms, weapons and police cruisers, a move Campbell says goes against Pride’s value of inclusivity.
"They (police) are part of the fabric of Toronto. They are effectively City of Toronto employees. Why should city funding go toward an organization that is telling our police force that they are not welcome and that is exactly what they are doing. So instead of bringing people together, they are pushing people apart," Campbell told CP24 Monday morning.
"They talk about inclusivity but you’ve got to walk the talk and they are not doing that."
Tory says talks are ongoing with police, Pride Toronto:
But Tory says the Pride Parade is a “hugely important event” for Toronto and that he supports maintaining the city’s “full funding.”
“This year, our Police Chief Mark Saunders decided in the prevailing circumstances, to withdraw police from marching in this year’s parade – and to focus on working with the LGBTQ and Black communities to ensure that we have a strong foundation of trust and partnership going forward,” a statement released by Tory read.
“From Day One, I have been consistent in saying that I considered Pride a celebration all about inclusion and that as such, police should be welcomed in the parade. I continue to hold this view.”
The mayor went on to say that both Pride Toronto’s executive director Olivia Nuamah and Saunders have engaged in “constructive discussions” about the underlying issues. Tory added that both parties indicated that withdrawing city funding would not be “helpful in finding a resolution.”
“Pride is an important city event, and one that must reflect the diversity and vibrancy of our city,” Tory said.
“But all inclusive organizations must in fact be inclusive and be seen to be inclusive, and I believe the Chief and Ms. Nuamah are trying to achieve that."
The decision to ban uniformed police officers from the parade came after Black Lives Matter- Toronto staged a sit-in protest at last year’s event, halting the parade until organizers signed off on a list of demands, which included a ban on police floats and booths in future parades.
In a surprise motion at Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting in January, the majority of members who attended the meeting voted in favour of the ban.
Pride's executive director asks for city support:
Speaking to reporters at city hall Monday, Nuamah said she appreciates the mayor’s support on funding.
“He has been emphatic to us, behind closed doors, that he supports us and we are very pleased that he said so publicly,” she said.
Nuamah, who attended today’s Economic Development Committee meeting to ask for the city’s continued financial support for the parade, added that Toronto police have agreed to “take a step back” from this year’s parade while the organization has discussions about the service’s future participation.
“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,” she said.
“This is not the first de-funding conversation the city has had about Pride Toronto positions we’ve taken on social issues. We don’t believe this is going to be the last.”
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack said he doesn't understand why a solution can't be worked out before this year's parade.
He added that officers shouldn't "be shamed" for being members of the Toronto Police Service.
"Is that what I’m being told? Give us one more year to do the right thing," he said. "What’s wrong with doing the right thing today?"
Nuamah said the 12-month period that police and Pride Toronto have agreed to will give the organization time to plan this year's parade and have a dialogue with the community.
"We are happy with both the position the Toronto police service and Pride Toronto have taken. That position is that we would have dialogue over 12 months," she said.
"The police pulled out of the parade to give us space to do that."
She added that Pride Toronto does not want officers to feel as though they aren't accepted at Pride just because they aren't allowed to wear their uniform.
"We are utterly welcoming to LGBTQ+ members of the police service and their allies. But what we are asking this year is that they not wear their uniform, that they not bring all the aspects of their uniform until we are able to have conversations with those parts of our community that feel that this is not appropriate to what they would like to celebrate in a parade."