Pride organizer says he has not agreed to exclude police floats from parade
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, July 4, 2016 10:39AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, July 4, 2016 7:44PM EDT
The executive director of Pride Toronto says he has not agreed to remove police floats from subsequent Pride parades after signing a list of demands presented by Black Lives Matter-Toronto Sunday.
During the 2016 Toronto Pride Parade Sunday, members of Black Lives Matter- Toronto, who were invited to take part in the event, staged a sit-in protest, halting the parade for several minutes.
The group presented a list of demands that included barring police floats from future parades. The parade resumed only after Pride Toronto Executive Director Mathieu Chantelois signed the list.
Speaking to CP24 Monday, Chantelois said that he only agreed to have a conversation about the issues that were raised but did not agree to exclude police floats from the parade.
“Frankly, Black Lives Matter is not going to tell us that there is no more floats anymore in the parade. I will not tell you that there is no more floats in the parade because Pride is bigger than Black Lives Matter. It is definitely bigger than me and my committee. That is the kind of decision that needs to be made by the community,” Chantelois said.
“Yesterday, we agreed to have a conversation about this. We agreed that we will bring this to the community and to the membership, but at the end of the day, if my membership says no way, we want to have police floats, they decide.”
Chantelois said that most of the other demands on the list were “reasonable.”
The list included stipulations that organizers commit to continued space, funding and logistical support for the group Black Queer Youth and that they work to have more Black deaf and hearing ASL interpreters for Pride events.
“Frankly they could have sent me an email and I would have agreed to all these things," Chantelois said.
He said Black Lives Matter- Toronto staged sit-ins at two other Pride marches in the city this weekend and while he wasn’t surprised they protested at the parade Sunday, he was not expecting a document.
“My priority yesterday was to make the parade move. We had a million people waiting, including people from marginalized communities. The show and the parade had to go on,” he added.
In a further statement released by Pride Toronto Monday evening, the organization said it will host a public townhall in August to gather feedback about the 2016 festival, but that police will continue to be a part of it one way or another.
“Pride Toronto never agreed to exclude police services from the Pride parade,” The statement read. “Law enforcement are critical to ensuring a safe festival and parade. Toronto Police will continue to lead security planning for future parades and we thank them for their efforts.
“We have had, and will continue to have, discussions with the police about the nature of their involvement as parade participants.”
Police Chief Mark Saunders would not comment on the protestors’ demands Monday, saying only that he needed to speak with Pride organizers before discussing it.
“I’m waiting to hear from the executive. Once I hear from them, I’ll have an opportunity to talk to you then on exactly what my feelings are, what my concerns or issues are, if there are any,” he said.
“Yesterday’s parade was a fantastic parade. The feedback was tremendous. Everyone that attended had an amazing time. The vast majority of the public said nothing but positive things about the parade and with this issue, like I said, once I speak with the executive, then I’ll be able to talk to you.”
McCormack calls for apology from Pride organizers:
Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack called the demand that police no longer have a float “ridiculous” and “offensive.”
"The whole event is supposed to be about inclusion and community... but it has been completely overshadowed because of the Black Lives Matter hijacking of the parade," McCormack told CP24 Monday.
He added that it is "problematic" that Chantelois agreed to sign the document.
"If he wants to retract it and give us an apology, we would love to hear it. We’ve reached out to his organization and we have heard nothing yet," McCormack added.
Chantelois told CP24 that a meeting has now been arranged between Saunders and Pride Toronto but he did not disclose the date or location.
Several other police services, including the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police, participate in the parade every year.
In a tweet sent out Monday, the union representing Peel paramedics said they will not participate in future parades if police are excluded.
"We support the good work done by @PrideToronto but we condemn their rejection of their principles," the post read.
Gay officer pens open letter
In an open letter to Pride Toronto posted on the Canadian Police Association’s Facebook page Monday, gay Toronto police Const. Chuck Krangle voiced his concerns about the demands made by Black Lives Matter protesters.
Krangle said the 2016 Pride Parade, which was the first he ever attended, was an eye-opening experience for him.
“When I saw all those floats and officers marching (hundreds), I realized that my employer fully supports this part of me, and so many others like me. As I stood post at Yonge and College, ensuring a safe atmosphere, Chief Mark Saunders came up to me. I had the opportunity to salute him, and I knew that I had a leader who was invested in this celebration of Pride,” he wrote.
“Police officers are significantly represented in the LGBTQ community and it would be unacceptable to alienate and discriminate against them and those who support them. They (too) struggled to gain a place and workplace free from discrimination and bias… exclusion does not promote inclusion.”
Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Janaya Khan told CP24 Monday that the protest and demands were meant to start a larger conversation.
“I think we need to look at the fact that there was never community consensus on the involvement of the police to begin with and what involvement they should have. Really what we are doing is we are opening up the possibility for dialogue. So it is not a matter of if police floats should be there, we definitely believe they should not, but police presence is something that can be negotiated,” she said.
Khan added that resistance is rooted in Pride’s history.
Bathhouse raids targeting the city’s gay community in the 1980s led to a protest march that eventually became the annual Pride parade.
“Really Pride’s history is a tradition of resistance and we are only keeping in alignment with that,” she added.