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‘Unacceptable’ for city to donate money to Pride parade: Toronto police LGBTQ network

“We, as city employees, would feel completely devalued and unsupported by our employer should they fund this event,” reads Toronto Police Association letter.

Toronto Police Service personnel marching in the Pride parade high-fiving spectators. The union representing Toronto's police officers is urging the city to pull an annual grant to Canada's largest Pride parade after the event banned police floats.

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Toronto Police Service personnel marching in the Pride parade high-fiving spectators. The union representing Toronto's police officers is urging the city to pull an annual grant to Canada's largest Pride parade after the event banned police floats.

Members of Toronto police’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer internal support network say it would be “unacceptable” for the city to donate money to Toronto’s Pride parade, an event that this year excludes official police participation.

“We, as city employees, would feel completely devalued and unsupported by our employer should they fund this event at this time,” reads a letter released by the Toronto Police Association Wednesday, signed by members of the support network’s executive committee.

“How can we possibly feel appreciated by our employer while they sponsor an event that its own employees have been disinvited from participating in as full, equal and active participants in their role as city employees (?),” the committee writes.

The letter, demanding the city withhold the planned grant of $260,000, comes during controversy over police participation in the upcoming Pride parade.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced in February that Toronto police would not be marching in the parade, Canada’s largest Pride event.

“We understand the LGBTQ communities are divided,” Saunders said in a statement. “To enable those differences to be addressed, I have decided the Toronto Police Service will not participate, this year, in the Pride Parade . . . . I want to make it very clear that this will have no impact on our ongoing outreach to LGBTQ communities.”

The decision came after action by Black Lives Matter Toronto at last July’s parade, where the group held a sit-in part way through, stopping the parade for about half an hour until Pride organizers signed its list of demands.

Black Lives Matter Toronto has said it opposes police presence in the parade because it could discourage marginalized communities from participating.

At its annual general meeting in January, Pride Toronto adopted a list of Black Lives Matter Toronto demands, including banning police floats from the parade.

Pascale Diverlus, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, noted in an interview Wednesday that Saunders, in his February statement announcing his force would not participate in the parade, acknowledged that there was still work to do to build positive relationships between police and LGBTQ communities.

“This is not the way to go about doing it,” she said of the letter released Wednesday.

When it banned police floats from the parade, Pride did so after “realizing that this is about safety and about a long history of people — black people, indigenous people — not feeling protected and feeling unsafe,” said Diverlus.

A handful of Toronto city councillors have also argued against providing the city’s annual grant money to Pride this year.

“It doesn’t sit right with me and with other councillors that we issue this grant in view of the position that they’ve taken with respect to the police force,” Coun. John Campbell said. “We need a certain level of equity and inclusivity attached to the issuance of grants for organizations.”

Last month, Janaya Khan, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto, said Campbell was failing to understand race relations.

“What is missing is a real understanding of what it means to be a racialized person in this city, and the fear that exists in your body when you are around a police officer,” Khan said.

“The institution of policing discriminates people based on race.

“We actually wouldn’t need to exist if city councillors were doing their job.”

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