Pride Toronto votes to ban police again, despite losing sponsors

Police officers at the Pride Toronto festival in 2016.

Pride Toronto members have voted to again ban uniformed police officers from taking part in the 2019 Pride parade, despite a funding crisis caused by the loss of sponsors.

Officers from the Toronto Police Service took part in the annual Pride parade for years, but were barred from the event in 2017 and 2018, as Pride organisers cited the police force’s historical discrimination towards transgender people and people of colour.

Relations worsened in 2018 when alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur was charged with the murder of seven men. McArhur was only arrested after years of bungled investigations into mysterious disappearances within the city’s gay community, and LGBT activists have been harshly critical of the police force’s actions.

Pride Toronto members still split on police policy

Despite attempts at outreach by the Toronto Police Service, Pride Toronto members voted by 163-161 on Tuesday (January 22) to again exclude police from the march for the next two years.

The wafer-thin margin of the vote provoked more controversy, CBC reports, as 244 new members were registered in the days running up to the meeting.

Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, said: “What this vote has told us is we need to better understand what this community feels about police services and how they feel it negatively impacts their lives and so that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

The director said the body would continue to consult on the issue beyond 2019.

A Toronto Police Officer fires a water gun at spectators at Pride Toronto in 2014.

A Toronto Police Officer fires a water gun at spectators at Pride Toronto in 2014. (GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty)

The decision was attacked by Mayor of Toronto John Tory, who said at a press conference: “I find it deeply disappointing. I believe the police should be in Pride, I’ve said that many times.”

Tory said he “tried to help in bringing the two sides together,” adding: “I will continue to use my office as Mayor to do everything I possibly can to avoid this city becoming divided and polarised.”

Asked why, as a straight white man, he was asserting his opinion on a complex discussion about race and LGBT+ issues, Tory replied: “I actually take some offence at the fact that you would even ask a question that way.

“I am the mayor of Toronto, duly elected by the people and the whole notion you would raise, rather I’m straight or rather I’m gay or whether I’m white or some other colour skin is not the way we do business in Toronto either.”

Pride Toronto facing ‘mounting debt’ as sponsors cut ties

Pride Toronto is reportedly facing a growing funding crisis due to a sharp decline in sponsorships in connection with the controversial policy.

A confidential briefing document produced ahead of the meeting, published by Toronto’s NOW Magazine, warns that the organisation is facing “mounting debt”  due to “significant shortfalls… in both our public and corporate sector support.”

The document adds that it has “[become] clear that while our funding arrangements in the past could withstand our policy on police participation, our future funding could not.”