Black Lives Matter Toronto, the advocacy group responsible for barring uniformed Toronto Police Service officers from marching in Canada’s largest Pride parade, won’t be participating this year either to ensure their “presence is felt through the parade” in other organizations.

“A number of us are involved in a variety of organizations, and for us it’s important to participate in Pride fully,” said co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto Rodney Diverlus. “Part of that is ensuring that our presence is felt through the parade.”

Black Lives Matter Toronto didn’t register by the May 20 deadline for this year’s parade, a move guaranteeing the controversial group can’t take part in the June 25 march.

“We see Pride as an opportunity to attend various events and we see Pride as an opportunity to highlight anti-blackness where it arises,” Diverlus told CP24.

He added their decision to not participate ensures the black queer and transgender communities have a presence in other affiliated groups, such as the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention – the organization provides outreach, prevention and support services for people from Toronto’s African, Caribbean and black communities who are affected by or at risk of contracting HIV.

Black Lives Matter Toronto stalls Pride parade

Black Lives Matter Toronto’s history with Pride Toronto is fraught with controversy.

Black Lives Matter, which was given the status of honoured group at last year’s Pride, brought the Toronto parade to a half-hour standstill when it launched a demonstration to hold Pride accountable for its “anti-blackness.”

The parade didn’t re-start until after Pride Toronto’s former executive director Mathieu Chantelois agreed to sign a list of the group’s demands.

According to Diverlus, Pride Toronto has historically recanted on its promises and commitments to the black LGBTQ community.

The group said in a news release that Pride Toronto showed “little honour to black queer/trans communities, and other marginalized communites. Over the years, Pride has threatened the existence of black spaces at Pride that have existed for years”

The list of demands included a commitment to increasing representation among Pride Toronto staff, alongside banning police floats.

Pride Toronto community bans uniformed police from parade

At Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting in January, the Pride community voted to remove uniformed officers and police floats from future parades.

Pride Toronto’s executive director Olivia Nuamah clarified the agreement saying LGBTQ officers and “their allies” will be able to march in the parade, without their weapons, uniforms and vehicles.

‘Look at the broader issue’

Although the rainbow Pride flag was raised in a historic first atop Toronto police headquarters to kick off Pride Month, the controversy over police participation and anti-blackness in Pride is far from over, Diverlus said.

“In this action specifically, we’re talking about anti-blackness within Pride. That was the conversation and a year later we still feel as if part of that conversation is still missing,” he explained. “People are still fixating on whether or not individual police officers are invited or not, but we actually have to look at the broader issue.

“The broader issue here is that Pride has to be more inclusive towards queer and transgender black communities.”

While Pride Toronto has accepted Black Lives Matter’s demands, the group still sees room for improvement, including addressing anti-blackness at a variety of levels.

“My participation in Pride will include talking about these issues,” Diverlus said. “It will include making sure that we’re moving beyond just fixating on one demand.”