Inclusion is one of the top core values of Toronto Pride and it also makes Toronto the welcoming city that it is.
Toronto’s diversity and understanding are nearly unmatched from many major Canadian cities.
So, when it comes time to omitting certain people from Toronto’s largest parade of the year, then how does one understand that Toronto police should be excluded?
This year, Toronto Pride asked that Toronto police need to withdraw its application to march in the parade over concerns police didn’t handle the Bruce McArthur investigation well. McArthur is the alleged serial killer charged with the murder of six men.
Chief Mark Saunders said he understands the concerns of the community and Toronto police officers will not march this year. Last year, they were asked to be left out at the demand of black activist group, Black Lives Matter. This year, Saunders pulled the application to join the parade following the backlash by BLM and others upset at the police murder investigation.
Pride Toronto justified its decision online this week by arguing Toronto police failed to act on concerns raised by the community after the disappearances of gay men in the Church and Wellesley Streets area. The statement reads police inaction during the time has “severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement.”
Several people in the community say their relationship is broken after community members have argued Toronto police failed to take community fears seriously when they believed there was a serial killer at large.
Further, police are not seeing if there are any links to the current serial murders investigation and the disappearance of 14 gay men from the Village some 40 years ago.
Now, there are investigations underway into how police handled reports that were made. And, it can’t come sooner.
It’s certainly important the internal investigation is underway and that Toronto police try to mend the wedge between themselves and the community as best they can, because, as the same online statement reads, that the issues “will not be solved in one day. The relationship cannot be mended through a parade.”
An important question may be: if not at the parade now, then when?
Placing a ban on Toronto police marching in the parade may lead to even greater tensions as it undermines the sense of inclusion the city has striven so hard to create. It could undermine funding from the city where some councilors are concerned and had pushed last year to pull $260,000 in funding from the parade until police were welcomed back.
Aside from funding being pulled, Pride Toronto also saw a dramatic drop in revenue in 2017, resulting in a nearly $500,000 deficit.
It’s important to understand that consequences have actions and that a withdrawal of support from key players could weigh heavily and play off of other community events throughout the city at a later time.
It’s important for police to defuse tensions within the community and start to rebuild relations with people and communities again, relations which are in need of much repair to ensure community members feel safe enough to have police welcomed back into their community again.