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On July 23rd, in the heart of Hogtown, the 38th annual Toronto Pride parade will commence. From the corner of Church and Bloor Street, all the way down to Yonge Street and straight to Dundas Square, over one million participants will unabashedly express themselves in ways that just a few decades ago would have been illegal.
This year’s festivities hold more significance to some, as 2019 also commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, an event which historians point to as the first spark in the Gay rights big bang.
Toronto is a diverse city, and its diversity goes far past skin colour. Though it’s well-known that Toronto has no shortage of people of colour, there’s also a vibrant and healthy community of colourful people.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has shown on several occasions now that he’s ready to work with and support the LGBTQ2 community. Only weeks ago, Mayor Tory raised the Pride and Trans flags over Toronto City Hall for the International Day Against Gay Prejudice.
Mayor Tory raised those flags again only a few weeks later, when he hauled the Pride and Transgender flags at City Hall to mark the beginning of Toronto’s Pride festivities.
Though Mayor Tory is expected to march in the parade, there will be one very notable absentee: Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
Ford decided to put his foot down this year, stating he will once again not be in attendance during pride festivities. For obvious reasons, some will perceive this as a step backwards.
Former Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne marched into history in 2014 when she became the first sitting premier to attend pride festivities. Wynne, an open lesbian herself, was no stranger to attending such events with her spouse Jane Rounthwaite, and did not hesitate to attend while in office.
But Premier Ford says he’ll be playing hookey for one sole reason: Pride Toronto’s decision to exclude in-uniform police officers from the parade and other events.
Toronto Pride and the Toronto Police haven’t met eye-to-eye in recent years, and there are a few reasons for that, one of them being the circumstances surrounding serial murderer Bruce McArthur, a man who murdered eight LGBT people in Toronto’s gay village.
Though it felt like steps in the right direction were being taken to mend strained relationships between the Toronto Police and Pride Toronto, Olivia Nuamah, Pride’s executive director, decided to stomp out all progress after McArthur’s conviction, noting that it confirmed the LGBTQ2+ communities concerns.
Mayor Tory had publicly expressed on several occasions his desire to have both sides come to a compromise, going so far as to say that he was “deeply disappointed” with the outcome of the 163-161 vote to exclude Toronto Police from Pride. But if he truly had the backs of his city’s law enforcement officers, then why would he opt to march in such festivities?
Showing solidarity with different communities is clearly important to Tory. Raising the Pride flag is a meaningful gesture, and not one I’m opposed to. But could it not just end there? To march in solidarity expresses complacency with an organization that—when it comes to law enforcement—has a clear ideological position.
Would Premier Ford have attended had the Toronto Police been welcomed? That’s one question that will be left entirely to speculation. If he would have even been welcomed by attendants is another. But what we can say is that it’s a valid reason, and one that Mayor Tory could have easily piggy-backed onto, arguably without much backlash. A mayor backing his police force shows backbone, and solidarity with the law enforcement.
Give your head a good shake, Toronto Pride! Gay people call the police, too. Gay people need protection, and that is what the Toronto Police are there to do. This may blow your mind, but there are members of the LGBT community who are also law enforcement officers in Toronto I know. Wild.
The history between law enforcement and LGBT people isn’t the greatest, sure. But are we ever going to get over it? Perhaps we could all learn in compassion from Victor Edward Willis, or as he is better-known, the policeman from the village people.
Toronto Pride, I ask of you, please allow on-duty police into your rallies. I have “See Doug Ford get booed at a gay pride rally” on my bucket list, and it’s something I really want to scratch off.