Pride Parade police ban is a self-crippling move

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Cops: Gay Pride is just not that into you.

The rainbow flag doesn’t include a swath of blue — or black and white actually, which are the colours of the Toronto Police Service uniform. These are uniforms-non-grata for the Pride Parade, as determined by a razor thin 163-161 Pride Toronto membership vote on Tuesday.

Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.
Police Chief Mark Saunders talks to other parade participants during Toronto’s annual Pride Parade in 2016. Members who voted to exclude police from this year’s parade may well be contributing to Pride Toronto’s financial crisis, Rosie DiManno writes.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

No uniforms for the parade, certainly no cop float or cruisers, thus no inclusive police presence at this summer’s 39th annual parade, so three annual parades in a row excluding officers — gay or straight or whatever — unless they participate in civvies. The moratorium is binding for two years, according to a pre-vote email circulated by Pride Toronto.

Controversy swirled around the vote, with allegations that 244 names were added to the membership roll within 48 hours preceding the special general meeting, almost doubling the numbers. As well, some expressed concern about the transparency, for those unable to attend, of an online voting format that had never been used before.

All of this in advance of next Tuesday’s annual general meeting to elect three new board members and closed to the media.

Going on three years now — since Black Lives Matter halted the 2016 parade — that a celebratory event which brings immense prestige to the city has been embroiled in divisive politics and flaring emotion.

I am sympathetic to members of the LGBTQ community who don’t want their space invaded by cops. There are compelling historical reasons for distrust. And, in more recent history, apprehensions were further entrenched by a shambolic investigation of serial murderer preying on men in the Gay Village, alarm bells raised that rang and rang and rang, from within the neighbourhood, before police doubled down on their probe of men who had gone missing and an arrest was finally made, mere weeks after Chief Mark Saunders assured there was no serial killer out there.

If I was gay and I had a vote, it would be: No. A purely gut response.

But I am straight and my non-vote would be: Yes.

Because the parade is in financial peril. Because the parade, hosted by the Gay Village, is an otherwise open invitation to the city. Because attendance was so obviously in decline in 2018, doubtless in part because the gay community was still grieving over its losses, but also, I would argue, due to a public backlash against Pride Toronto. The organization’s audit for 2018 claims attendance for Pride Festival events was up, to 2.6 million. My eyes do not believe it.

Nor, for one moment, do I believe that any gay individual would feel “unsafe” in the parade presence of uniformed officers, particularly since officers will be there anyway on professional duty. It’s what the uniform represents that raises hackles. A contact flinch. An undercurrent of bitterness. A toxic dislike that may be justifiable and certainly not exclusive to the gay community.

It seemed, as recently as October, that the wrangle had been resolved or was at least headed toward peacemaking. Olivia Nuameh, Pride’s executive director, hit all the conciliatory grace notes in announcing, with Saunders at her side, that the board would welcome an application from Toronto police to march in 2019.

What was the purpose of that announcement, widely well-received, when the board apparently misread the tenor of its membership? Nuameh — who didn’t return a call from the Star on Friday — had been made to look inept and Saunders a supplicating fool.

Behind-the-scenes outreach between police liaison officers, the mayor’s office and Pride Toronto have been wrecked by what is essentially a small rump of the gay dissident faction with no explanation for why Pride even held a narrow one-question vote with so small a pivotal forum: “Should the Toronto Police Service be permitted to participate in Pride Toronto’s Festival Weekend, Parade and Streetfair, to include their uniforms and vehicles?”

Not that Pride Toronto was necessary driven by reconciliatory motivation. The organization is tangled up in debt, $700,00 in the red, with an operating deficit of $250,000 last year, its temporary lifeline a $300,000 line of credit.

Even with a drop in sponsorship revenue, this is difficult to reckon for an event that pours revenue into the city’s coffers: As per the economic impact section of the auditor’s report, posted online, the Pride Festival contributed an estimated $681 million to Ontario’s GDP, supported 5,000 direct jobs, and generated $270 million in combined federal, provincial and municipal tax revenues. Attendees spent $305 million in Pride-related purchases over Parade weekend alone and $379 million during Pride Month.

The imbalance is puzzling, as are the stark financial projections for 2019, despite cost-cutting undertakings that will see the number of stages reduced from 14 to three and ticketed events increased from four to 10.

"The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down," Pride's executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization's members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year's parade.
« The festival this year is going to be very much slimmed down, » Pride’s executive director Olivia Nuamah told the Star, a day after the organization’s members narrowly voted against allowing uniformed police officers to march in this year’s parade.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

A confidential backgrounder to Tuesday’s vote, sent to members and obtained by NOW Magazine, observes that the police disinvitation — coupled with a “significant internal reorganization” — accounted for a gap in corporate and public funding that “has had long term impacts on the financial health of our organization, the main one being mounting debt.”

Minutes of Pride Toronto’s Oct. 15, 2018 board meeting, also obtained via NOW digging, suggest funding problems faced by the organization prompted the decision to beckon police back into the Pride fold. The minutes state that Pride is at risk of becoming intolerably insolvent and the organization was relying on “funding focused on facilitating ongoing dialogue to try to ease tensions between the LGBTQ2+ community and police” to stay afloat.

Some, fed up with the whole shemozzle, have been advocating for all levels of government to pull Pride funding should the police ban not be reversed. This would be as wrong-headed as the ban itself.

About five per cent of Canadians identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That’s some 140,000 in Toronto, although obviously the numbers would skew higher for an urban metropolis with such a vivid gay community.

The city is blessed by Gay Pride cha-ching. I see no point in exacting vengeance from the community — and Toronto — by crippling the event fiscally.

But the anti-popo gospel, invoked by an antagonistic wee minority, is misanthropic and mutilating for a grand event beloved by all.

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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Edmonton Pride Festival theme for 2019 gives nod to historic revolutionary event for LGBTQ community – Edmonton

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The Edmonton Pride Festival has announced the theme for its 2019 events, and “Building Bridges from Stonewalls” pays homage to the Stonewall riots in New York City to mark the 50th anniversary of the demonstrations.

The 1969 protests followed a police raid of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Lower Manhattan.

“The theme came about with the idea of the Stonewall riots being the widely-regarded beginning of the modern gay rights movement for our community,” said Clayton Hitchcock, co-chair of the board of directors for the Edmonton Pride Festival Society (EPFS).

“It was somewhat of a play on words with the name of the Stonewall Inn and taking the walls of those who stand against the community, and using those very same stones to build the bridges we have today and the ones we still have to build,” he said.

Watch below: (From July 2016) The Stonewall riots in 1969 were a turning point in the gay rights movement in the United States. Martin Boyce is a Stonewall veteran and shares the impact of the protest on the Pride movement.






Noting duality in the theme’s name with regard to prominent words in our society, Hitchcock added that “walls and bridges are a hot topic in today’s world.”

The EPFS announced the theme (“Building Bridges from Stonewalls”) last week on social media. The organization draws similarities between the Stonewall riots to an event that occurred in Edmonton.

The EPFS’ tweet, including this year’s festival theme announcement, noted that “as the Pride movement took shape in our own city, the Pisces Bathhouse Raid in 1981 became Edmonton’s own Stonewall, causing Edmontonians to take a stand against the mistreatment of our community.”

 

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The theme was chosen through an online public vote and there were three options. The other two suggested themes were “Be You To Full” and “Make Change Mâmawikamâtotân Avec Fierté.”

Hitchcock said he thinks “Building Bridges from Stonewalls” was chosen due to the anniversary of the movement coupled with its importance to the community.

“Stonewall is something that is very known in our community, so I think it being the 50th anniversary made a lot of people pay attention to it,” he said.

“It resonated with a lot of people in our community with where we’re at right now — taking a moment to recognize the works of the past, the present and where we want to go in the future.”

The theme will be open for interpretation during the festival’s 10-day takeover of Strathcona Park at the edge of Steel Park, and it’s up to organizers of each event to showcase the theme how they’d like.

“We’re hoping to see some ingenious ideas around that,” Hitchcock said.

Despite the Pride Festival being six months out, planning is well underway and it has been for a while.

“We never really stop,” Hitchcock said. “As soon as one is finished, we start on the next one.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Pride Parade continues after being stopped by demonstrators

Watch below: (From June 2018) Old Strathcona was packed Saturday as the 2018 Edmonton Pride Parade wound its way colourful crowds. Albert Delitala was there.






With the announcement of this year’s theme, the EPFS uses January as a stepping-off point to begin engaging the public. Application forms for volunteers, parade entries, sponsors and vendors are also released at the start of the new year.

“There’s a million-and-one pieces to put together for the festival, so we want to start getting people focused on it around this time [of year],” Hitchcock said.

Last year, the organization announced the festival’s main events were moving closer to the ATB Financial Arts Barns, where the Edmonton International Fringe Festival takes place, however, the festival will be staying where it usually is afterall.

“That’s been pushed back a year due to some construction and other logistics with the city,” Hitchcock said.

This year, Pride in the Park  — which usually occurs after the Pride Parade — will be spread out over Friday, Saturday and Sunday, instead of just the Saturday the parade falls on.

The 2019 edition of Pride will also focus on Indigenous Pride, as the space for that will be bigger. The event will also feature an alcohol-free space.

“Particularly, it will be a sober space for people who perhaps are averted by the party aspect of pride,” Hitchcock said.

Hitchock said many Edmontonians show up for and enjoy the Pride Parade, and noted that “in a lot of people’s mind[s], the parade is the festival.”

“The festival is more than the parade,” he said.

“Over the 10 days, there’s a multitude of events that go on, and a lot of really great organizations that put on these events.

“Every year we strive to create more awareness around that.”

Each year, the Edmonton Pride Festival continues to gain more attendees and participants.

“Last year, we were really lucky,” Hitchock said. “We had the ability to increase our parade. We used to have around 100 entries, and last year we went up to 120 — it should be around the same this year.

“Our hope is that it will always grow.”

This year’s Edmonton Pride Festival runs from June 7 to June 19.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Pride Toronto members won’t allow uniformed police to march in the parade

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Members of Pride Toronto have voted against allowing the city’s uniformed police officers from participating in this year’s parade.

The vote comes about three months after the organization lifted a ban on uniformed officers taking part in the annual event, saying the force was welcome to apply to be a part of this summer’s festivities.

WATCH: Oct. 16, 2018 — Toronto police invited back to Pride






But the decision to keep them out was made by a margin of 163-161 on Tuesday night.

The relationship between Pride Toronto and city police has been tense for the past two years.

READ MORE: Toronto police allowed to take part in 2019 Pride parade, organizers say

Uniformed officers were first banned from the parade in 2017 over concerns of racial profiling, and again in 2018 over criticism the force had not taken the disappearances of several men missing from the city’s gay village seriously.

In a statement Tuesday, Toronto police say they “remain committed to maintaining a dialogue with Pride Toronto as well as the larger LGBTQS community to deliver policing services that are inclusive and responsive to the needs of the community regardless of the outcome of one particular vote or event.”

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Pride Toronto embarks on cross-country federally funded examination of policing problems

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Pride Toronto is embarking on a federally funded, cross-country examination of the often tumultuous relationship between police and “marginalized” members of the LGBTQ community.

“We want to change the nature of the interaction of our community and police,” said Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto. When the report is done, it will be given to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police along with recommendations. She also wants police “at the table” during this Canada-wide consultation.

Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were at 519 Church Saturday to announce federal funding for cross-country examination of how police interact with LGBTQ2 community.
Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah and Finance Minister Bill Morneau were at 519 Church Saturday to announce federal funding for cross-country examination of how police interact with LGBTQ2 community.  (KEVIN DONOVAN / TORONTO STAR)

Finance Minister Bill Morneau was in Toronto Saturday alongside Nuamah to announce an “initial investment” of $450,000 for Pride Toronto. Nuamah said her understanding, following talks with government officials, is that the funds will form part of an eventual $1.2-million commitment over the next five years.

“We know that there is a long and turbulent history between the criminal justice system and LGBTQ2 Canadians,” said Morneau, referencing the recent experience in Toronto of “investigating and discovering violent murders in our community.”

Toronto police have been criticized for failing to solve numerous cases where men went missing in Toronto’s Gay Village. Community members believed there was a serial killer on the loose for many years. Landscaper Bruce McArthur now faces murder charges in the deaths of eight men, all with ties to the city’s Gay Village.

Pride Toronto’s Nuamah said the federal funding will be put toward hiring consultants who will facilitate surveys and public meetings in at least 10 cities across Canada, beginning with Toronto. She said it is important to hear from people who have experienced first-hand the sometimes difficult initial interactions between lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited (LGBTQ2) Canadians and police. Among the cities her team will visit are Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax. There are 122 Pride organizations across Canada and she hopes that, in some way, they can hear from them all.

“We want to be able to provide police with advice from these consultations on what is the best way for police to have that initial interaction with our community,” Nuamah said.

Morneau’s federal riding of Toronto Centre includes the areas affected by the alleged serial killings. He made the funding announcement at the 519 Church St. community centre. He said Saturday that despite efforts by the community to fix the problems, they continue.

“For too long, the LGBTQ2 community has encountered injustice from various institutions in our society, in ways that have prevented people from living their own lives most fully and contributing your strengths to this country,” Morneau said. “Our government understands fully the injustices that have occurred, and the need for them to be rectified.”

He said he hopes the federal funding will help break down the barriers that “lead to negative outcomes” when the LGBTQ2 communities engage with the criminal justice system.

Nuamah said it is important that police be involved in the examination her group will begin next summer. She said the decision by Pride Toronto to welcome uniformed Toronto police back to the 2019 parade (they had been banned for the last two years due to simmering tensions between police and the LGBTQ2 community) is part of what she hopes will be a more collaborative relationship.

But she knows that on this Pride Toronto road trip there will be difficult stories. Asked if she could relate a story of a positive interaction between police and her community recently, she said she could not.

“Our hope is that the stories of abuse we will hear will lead to change, or at least change the nature of the advocacy that our group does,” said Nuamah.

Kevin Donovan is the Star’s chief investigative reporter based in Toronto. Reach him by email at kdonovan@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @_kevindonovan

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Ottawa gives Pride Toronto $450K for plan to improve LGBT safety

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The federal government announced a $450,000 grant to help Pride Toronto develop strategies to make LGBT communities in Canada live more securely.

« For too long, the [LGBT] community has encountered injustice from various institutions in our society in ways that have prevented people from living their lives more fully and contributing their strengths to our country, » said Bill Morneau, federal finance minister and MP for Toronto Centre, home to the city’s Gay Village.

« We know that we have to do better. »​

Morneau was joined by Olivia Nuamah, executive director of Pride Toronto, at an afternoon news conference on Saturday to formally commit the new money.

The funding will be used for the creation of a new initiative, run by Pride Toronto, that seeks to address « institutional and systemic barriers that lead to negative outcomes for [LGBT] communities, especially those that they have when encountering the criminal justice system. »

Nuamah explained that the organization is taking a « two-pronged » approach. First, it will host consultations with LGBT people in cities and towns across the country to hear their concerns and personal experiences with injustice or feeling unsafe.

According to a news release, that will be followed by the development of an action plan aimed at:

  • Improving the relationship between Toronto’s LGBT communities and the criminal justice system.
  • Increasing understanding of LGBT offending and victimization (including hate crimes).
  • Contributing to the implementation of educational and prevention tools for both victims and offenders in this community.

« We are incredibly thankful, » Nuamah told reporters.

While he was never mentioned by name, Morneau made several allusions to alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur. McArthur, 67, faces eight charges of first-degree murder for the deaths of eight men with ties to Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood.

McArthur’s arrest in January sent shock waves through the city and exposed deep rifts between its LGBT community and police force. Some within the community have been critical of how police have handled cases of missing LGBT people, some going as far to allege that the community’s concerns were ignored by investigators.

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Rebel Media speaker says pride flag and swastikas comparison ‘unintentional,’ apologizes

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A member of Alberta’s United Conservative Party is apologizing for making what he says was an unintentional comparison between the rainbow LGBTQ pride flag and swastikas in a speech this weekend.


READ MORE:
Alberta conservatives clash with leaders on gay-straight alliances at UCP policy meeting

John Carpay issued a statement Sunday evening, saying he wished to clarify the remarks he made at a conference organized by the conservative news outlet Rebel Media in Calgary the previous day.

In the statement, Carpay says he was discussing the nature of totalitarianism when he “referred in the same sentence” to the rainbow flag and the flags bearing Nazi and communist symbols.

In doing so, he says he “unintentionally drew a broad comparison” between them.

WATCH: LGBTQ+ advocates cheer NDP bill banning conversion therapy






He says he meant to stress the need to defend fundamental rights such as free speech, and that slogans touting diversity and inclusion have been abused in ways that undermine those freedoms.

Carpay, a lawyer and president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, is behind a legal challenge to Alberta’s law on gay-straight alliances.

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Calgary lawyer challenging gay-straight alliance bill compares pride flags to swastikas

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The United Conservative Party needs to remove a member that compared rainbow pride flags to swastikas, says an LGBTQ advocate.

On Saturday, Calgary lawyer John Carpay with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms spoke at a conference organized by Rebel Media, a far-right media organization that has been criticized for sympathetic coverage of white supremacy.

« How do we defeat today’s totalitarianism? You’ve got to think about the common characteristics. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hammer and sickle for communism, or whether it’s the swastika for Nazi Germany or whether it’s a rainbow flag, the underlying thing is a hostility to individual freedoms, » Carpay said. 

CBC News has reached out to Carpay to ask him to clarify his comments.

Other speakers at the event included Conservative Saskatoon MP Brad Trost and People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier.

Carpay is the lawyer behind a lawsuit challenging the Alberta government’s bill that protects students from being outed by teachers if they join a gay-straight alliance.

The claim states that gay-straight alliances — peer-support groups that are meant to tackle bullying and provide supportive environments for LGBTQ students — are « ideological sexual clubs. »

« I thought the comments were absolutely offensive and require immediate action, » said Kristopher Wells, an LGBTQ advocate and associate professor at MacEwan University specializing in sexual and gender minority youth.

« The true motivations are crystal-clear now of the kind of hate and homophobia behind this kind of opposition. I think Jason Kenney needs to immediately suspend this person from the UCP party and denounce this kind of homophobic hatred. »

UCP is ‘big-tent party’: Kenney

Christine Myatt, a spokesperson for UCP leader Jason Kenney provided the following emailed statement in response to Carpay’s comments: 

« Of course we do not believe the rainbow flag has any equivalency to fascism and communism — ideologies that have been responsible for the deaths of well over 100 million people.

« The UCP is a big-tent party that supports the rule of law, equality of all before the law, and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. In that light, the UCP hosted Pride breakfasts in both Edmonton and Calgary this year. »

Carpay is a UCP member who spoke to resolutions at the party’s policy convention this spring.

In 2017, Kenney spoke at a Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms event, comparing Carpay’s work to that of civil-rights activist Rosa Parks and asking people to donate to Carpay’s organization.

Last month, Kenney disavowed a former campaign worker with ties to white supremacy and cancelled his UCP membership.

The leader said at the time he was looking to create a database to screen out extremists from seeking party memberships.

Kenney’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether or not Carpay’s views about the LGBTQ flag would qualify him as an extremist member of the party.

« To equate the Nazis with the movement for equality for LGBTQ people is abhorrent, » said Duncan Kinney, the executive director of left-leaning advocacy group Progress Alberta.

« Jason Kenney was just in the media last week talking about how he’s going to create a database to keep extremists out of the UCP. This is an extremist in his ranks … Kenney has spoken warmly about the human rights work Carpay has done. »

Wells said he’s worried homophobia is on the rise, and called on all parties to denounce anti-LGBTQ hate speech.

« I think all parties and leaders should be denouncing this kind of homophobia, it just has no place in our society, in fact I believe the Alberta bar association should look at revoking this individual’s membership to practice law in Alberta with these kind of hateful and discriminatory attitudes, » Wells said. 

« Some of the rhetoric we’re hearing from UCP party members and candidates, it emboldens people to come out with these hateful attitudes and start to dehumanize and attack minority groups who are very vulnerable in our society. »

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