Pride Toronto and several of the city’s other LGBTQ organizations have made a statement requesting the Toronto Police Service pull out as a participant in the upcoming Pride parade. The decision is in light of the police’s much-delayed arrest of serial murderer Bruce McArthur, the landscaper accused of murdering at least seven men in Toronto’s gay village as far back as 2010. As a result, the TPS has agreed not to participate (video below).
In a statement signed by the executive directors of Pride Toronto, “The 519” LGBTQ center, three separate HIV organizations and a local health clinic, the leaders state:
What [the individual stories and lived experiences of these seven men] share was that the investigations into their disappearances were insufficient, community knowledge and expertise was not accessed and despite the fact that many of us felt and voiced our concerns, we were dismissed. This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever.
The statement concludes that community resources are better invested in “shared efforts that focus on deeper dialogue, collaborative action and sustained institutional change.”
“Only a significant commitment and meaningful action can start the critical work of making our communities safer,” the statement concludes.
Of TPS’s withdrawal from the event, TPS Chief Mark Saunders said, “My hope is that this move will be received as a concrete example of the fact that I am listening closely to the community’s concerns and I am committed thoroughly to building a better, stronger relationship between us.”
This isn’t the first time Toronto Police have been asked to scale back involvement in the city’s annual Pride celebrations. During the 2016 Toronto Pride parade last June, local Black Lives Matter activists staged a sit-in, which delayed the parade for 30 minutes. During the sit-in, the group issued a list of eight demands; among them was the removal of police floats and booths from all Pride events, to which Pride Toronto agreed.
The following year, in 2017, Pride Toronto banned the city’s police from marching in the parade altogether, though the police still provided protection for the event in accordance with municipal requirements. The Toronto Police will continue to provide protection for this year’s event as well.