Toronto Pride police

Pride Toronto in turmoil over decision to include police

Queer activists are livid this morning in the wake of a chaotic Pride Toronto meeting that was effectively shut down as members tried to debate whether or not uniformed police officers should be allowed to participate in this year's parade.

Pride's recent decision to allow police officers, police cruisers and police floats back into the parade after a two-year ban has proven incredibly controversial.

Many present at last night's annual general meeting at Toronto's Harbourfront Centre found it odd that there was no mention of the issue on the agenda. Journalists were also banned from attending for the first time.

Toronto's Pride Parade hasn't had a visible police presence since 2016, when members of Black Lives Matter halted the procession with a list of demands that included banning police floats from future parades.

The relationship between Pride Toronto and Toronto Police Services had been strained for years, and how police handled the investigation into alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur who targeted gay men in the Church and Wellesley area, further increased tensions between police and the gay community earlier this year.

"The relationship cannot be mended through a parade," said Pride Toronto itself ahead of 2018's celebrations in a statement co-signed by the executive directors of The 519, The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention, Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, Toronto People With AIDS Foundation, and Sherbourne Health Centre.

And yet, in October, Pride Toronto executive director, Olivia Nuamah, openly welcomed Toronto Police Services back for 2019.

Members of the non-profit organization want to know why — and say that Nuamah's refusal to discuss the issue at last night's annual general meeting is unacceptable.

Present at the meeting last night were members of a group organized by Queer Ontario with input from Black Lives Matter and other community activists called the No Pride In Policing Coalition.

No Pride in Policing asserts that Pride Toronto's decision to invite police to join 2019's parade is "clearly undemocratic" and that it "threatens to create further tensions in the Queer and Trans communities."

"Of great concern is that this decision was undertaken without transparency or accountability," reads a statement published by the group, which is calling upon Nuamah to step down from her post.

"We of the No Pride in Policing Coalition believe that Pride Toronto, as it currently exists, cannot be trusted as an official voice of LGBTQ people in this city or beyond."

The controversy came to a head at last night's meeting in Toronto when general members of Pride tried to raise their concerns.

"The Pride Toronto AGM was adjourned by the chair tonight once it became clear that the majority of members in the room would vote to keep the police as an institutional and official force out of Pride," wrote veteran activist and author Gary Kinsman on Twitter Tuesday evening.

"This was an undemocratic move."

Pride, which started as a grassroots political movement, has grown into one of Toronto's most culturally and economically important annual events.

With so much money from government agencies and corporate sponsors in the mix, some are questioning the motives of Pride Toronto's current board of directors—and wondering if it might be smart to scale things back.

After last might's meeting was abruptly adjourned, a sign up sheet was put out to call for an emergency membership meeting about the police issue, specifically.  

With just 10 per cent of the total 255 members required to be on board for the meeting to proceed, it is expected to take place in early 2019.

Lead photo by

Mauricio Calero


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