unity festival toronto

Someone is creating a competitor to the Toronto Pride parade

It's been a rollercoaster ride of a year for Pride Toronto and its relationship with Toronto Police Services.

Although Pride's funding is now safe, and uniformed officers are banned from marching in this year's parade, one group is still very much opposed to Pride's decision. That's why it's throwing a festival at the same time as the parade on June 25.

"We want to have a place to celebrate where they [uniformed officers] normally wouldn't be able to," says Bryn Hendricks, the organizer of the First Responders Unity Festival.

Don't confuse this event with Toronto's annual Unity Festival which celebrates 10 years next month.

Much is still unclear about exactly what the Unity First Responders Festival is, where it will happen, and who will participate, but Hendricks is confident it's an event that needs to happen.

"We're trying to be inclusive of all," he says. "This is in response to the fact that the police [don't] have the ability to march in the parade."

To be clear, Toronto cops are allowed to march in the Toronto Pride parade, just not in uniform.

Hendricks says 28 different first responder organizations have been contacted to participate. None of the groups have confirmed their attendance yet, though the festival does have letters of support from folks like Sue-Ann Levy and Ryan Doyle.

Hendricks also claims the Toronto Police are the only confirmed participants so far. When contacted, the TPS had a different response.

"We appreciate the support, however we are not participating in any parades or festivals in Toronto this year," says Toronto Police services liaison officer Danielle Bottineau .

During a radio interview last week, the Mayor stated he'd try to attend the event if invited, according to a note posted on the festival's Facebook page. But the Mayor's office has not yet confirmed his support or participation.

Hendricks, who helped Toronto Police get invited to march in the New York City Pride parade in uniform, says the Unity event isn't anti-Pride, but it's supposed to allow Toronto's first responder officers to celebrate as they wish.

Lead photo by

Honey Agarwal


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