Pride Toronto moves closer to securing annual grant amid controversy

Pride Toronto moves closer to securing funding

TORONTO — Canada’s largest Pride parade is one step closer to securing municipal funding that has been threatened by a decision to ban uniformed police officers from the annual event.

Pride Toronto has sparked controversy ever since a decision early this year to ban police floats from the colourful summer parade.

On Monday, a committee at Toronto City Hall recommended upholding a $260,000 annual grant to the event after a petition from Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto. A final ruling on the fate of the grant will come in a few weeks at the city’s monthly council meeting.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has expressed his support for the funding, saying both Pride Toronto and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders have told him cutting the grant would not help resolve the controversy around the parade.

Earlier this year, a Toronto city councillor called for the grant to be revoked over Pride Toronto’s decision to ban police floats, saying the event had become exclusionary.

The union representing Toronto police officers quickly echoed that call, saying it would be unacceptable for the city to sponsor an event that shuts out certain municipal employees.

In a statement released Sunday evening, Pride Toronto reiterated that police officers were welcome at the parade so long as they appeared as civilians rather than in an official capacity.

The organization said officers could participate in the march if they left their uniforms, weapons and cruisers behind.

Nuamah said both sides of the issue have the same goal.

“We are going to be trying incredibly hard to dampen down the vitriolic nature of this conversation, to be honest with you, to make it more about the cohesion which we all seek,” Nuamah said.

Having the mayor’s public support is “huge,” the organizer said.

In January, Pride Toronto decided to adopt a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, which included a ban on police floats.

The issue first made headlines during last year’s parade, when members of the anti-racism group staged a sit-in that halted the march until Pride organizers signed a list of demands.

Black Lives Matter has argued that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage marginalized communities from attending.

Saunders said earlier this year that in light of the ongoing controversy, the force would steer clear of the event, aside from overseeing security.

If the parade’s grant is revoked, the city would still provide policing, transportation and other services for the Pride parade,

Police participation in Pride events has stirred controversy across Canada recently, with several forces — such as those in Vancouver and Halifax — facing restrictions or bans for local parades.

Last week, however, the Pride committee in St. John’s, N.L., reversed course and invited uniformed police officers to march in the city’s parade.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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