Toronto’s Pride Parade is scheduled for Sunday and Pride officials don’t want police anywhere near it.
Tensions involving police and the parade were brewing in 2016, when members of Black Lives Matter abruptly halted the march to present several demands, among them that uniformed police, their floats and cruisers be excluded.
The group cited tensions between the police force and black citizens possibly arising, and among other things, racial profiling.
Pride organizers reluctantly changed their position, saying officers could participate if they gave no indication of being police. As a result, the force did not march last year, but Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders expressed hope, uniformed officers would be invited back this year.
His idea didn’t fly.
In early April, Pride Toronto and five other organizations co-signed a letter opposing a formal police presence, citing the investigation into missing gay men.
“Despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed,” the groups said. “This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever.”
In response, Chief Saunders said he recognized how fraught the issue was, and said he wouldn’t push participation this year.
“My hope is that this move will be received as a concrete example of the fact that I am listening closely to the community’s concerns,” Saunders said in a statement.
Hey… but what did we see on the uniforms of Toronto Police recently?
Why it was a doctored-up Canadian flag, Pride style… How disgusting is that? Pride scoffs at the police and wants them nowhere near their events in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver or Halifax. Yet, Toronto Police are wearing a doctored up Canadian flag (Pride-style) on their uniforms?
And since when does any group have the right to tell police where and when they can wear their uniforms? It’s one thing to exclude police from the Pride parades. For instance, that is the right of parade organizers. But they don’t have any right to tell a police officer whether he can or cannot wear his uniform in public, or whether he can show up to police a parade.
Who’s running this police force anyway?
Police came under fire from the LGBTQ community for failing to take the disappearances of gay men seriously for years — until January, when they arrested and charged self-employed landscaper Bruce McArthur, 66, with killing two men. The number of first-degree murder charges against McArthur subsequently rose to eight.
With many residents feeling shock, grief and horror, Chief Saunders inflamed the situation when he initially suggested no one in the gay community had come forward with information that might have led to an earlier arrest. He later said it was not his intent to blame the community.
Const. Danielle Bottineau, the force’s LGBTQ2S liaison officer, said challenging a police force culture based on hetero-normative white male privilege has been an ongoing battle fought by LGBTQ officers, willing to make themselves visible. At the same time, she said she understood the difficulty the community has with the police service.
“Unfortunately, we did our part where we weren’t doing the best job, and we need to take ownership of that,” Bottineau said. “I would love to be back in the Pride Parade at some point, and that will happen, but it’s just going to take time.”
So now it appears Toronto Police might be caving in to Pride’s demands, even to the point of defacing their uniforms with a doctored-up Canadian flag.
It doesn’t appear Ontario Premier Doug Ford will be taking part. Ford has been noncommittal about the idea of showing up. Ford said he would consider marching if uniformed police were invited back.
Ford has a point. But since when do police need an invitation to be anywhere? It’s the responsibility of the police to maintain law and order at these things. That doesn’t mean hiding their uniforms in a closet or hiding behind a lamp post or some other place where they can’t be seen.
Pride officials have no right to tell the police where and when they can do their jobs. They do have the right to dispute the way police conduct investigations, the same way any citizen has that right.
Despite the controversy, the parade, which caps off weeks of gay-themed events, is expected to draw as many as one-million spectators to the sidewalks — and police will be on hand helping ensure security.
“This is the weekend’s premier event, bursting with performances, floats, marchers with messages, queens, kings, outstanding community groups, and more glitter than you can shake a disco stick at,” organizers proclaim on their website.
But one has to wonder what the Pride officials would do if some sort of unrest erupts and police adhere to Pride’s requests and simply stay in their stations. Then, who would be screaming the loudest?