Toronto Pride's parade invitation to police sparks criticism while Vancouver Pride will maintain its position

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      The Pride parade that sparked a national debate about police participation is changing its approach.

      In 2016, Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMT) activists blocked the Pride parade in Toronto to protest police participation, thereby sparking requests in other cities for police forces to withdraw from or limit participation in Pride parades, including Vancouver, Kamloops, Edmonton, Calgary, Halifax, and more.

      The protest was intended to address issues of police brutality, racism, and more.

      Pride Toronto voted to uninvited the Toronto Police Service (TPS) in 2017.

      However, Pride Toronto's Olivia Nuamah—who has been the organization's executive director since February 2017 and has discussed her experiences as a black woman in interviews—announced in a Facebook post on November 29 that the TPS will be invited to participate in the 2019 parade.

      She acknowledged the important issues that Black Lives Matter has raised and drawn attention to.

      "Black Lives Matter made all of us realize (or perhaps remember) that the place to inspire visionary strategies, to start breakthrough collaborations, and to pave the way to powerful new movements is at the intersection of diverse identities and communities," Nuamah stated.

      Nuamah also noted that 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada, and made reference to concerns about how police handled the disappearance and serial killings in Toronto's gay village from 2010 to 2017.

      Toronto Pride executive director Olivia Nuamah
      Toronto Pride

      However, she went on to explain that Pride Toronto will take a new approach in order to create change that will include working together with police.

      "Collaboration and conversation are not often seen as instruments of resistance," Nuamah said. "But if you are a lifelong student of the ways that institutions use oppressive policies and practices to exercise control, then you would also know that, all over the world communities of colour have negotiated with these institutions."

      Nuamah emphasized that comprehension of and educating all involved about the issues involved are essential.

      "Unless there is a more nuanced understanding of the ongoing shifts of who we all are, of the vulnerability that queer young people face and of the ways in which family, economics, neighbourhood and school interact, we will not address the substantive issues our communities face," she wrote. "This can only be done through a process that values partnership, invites organizations that seek to reform to the table and formally plans a road map for change."

      Although the approach that Toronto Pride will take differs from BLMT, Nuamah stated that the objectives are the same.

      "The Toronto Police Service, along with the many agencies that impact all communities of colour, must work together to realize change," she stated. "This is why we invited them to apply to take part in next year’s parade—we are seeking to start a new relationship, with real and positive outcomes, through doing the actual work it will take to make the change we all seek."

      However, at Pride Toronto's annual general meeting on December 4, the Star  reported that media was denied entry, and that the meeting was shut down after activists tried to add the police issue to the agenda and called for the resignation of Nuamah.

      CityNews reported that activists, who were not permitted to enter the meeting, held a demonstration to protest the decision to invite the police back into the parade.

      The Vancouver Police Department was allowed to participate in the 2016 Vancouver Pride parade but without an armoured vehicle
      Craig Takeuchi

      Meanwhile in Vancouver, when the Georgia Straight asked the Vancouver Pride Society about the status of police participation at their general meeting held on November 24, VPS executive director Andrea Arnot and co-chair Michelle Fortin confirmed that their position on police participation in the 2019 parade will remain the same.

      "As a board, we're really pleased with the number of folks that showed up this year," Fortin stated at the meeting. "It was the largest contingent this year for them…and right now, we're really pleased with the level of participation and the type of participation."

      In response to an open letter from BLMV in July 2016, the VPS decided to allow the VPD to participate in the parade but without an armoured vehicle.

      In 2017, the VPS decided that 20 percent of the VPD parade contingent would be permitted to march in the parade in uniform.

      However in 2018, the VPS decided that police would be able to participate as individuals but not in uniform, weapons, or vehicles.

      The 2019 Toronto Pride parade will take place on June 23, 2019, while the 2019 Vancouver Pride parade will be held on August 4, 2019.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook. You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.