2 min

The fight over Pride will be a long one — but worth it

Black Lives Matter’s demand to remove police floats from parade raises important debate

The debate over racism, inclusion and police involvement, that Black Lives Matter Toronto has prompted, cuts to the essence of questions over what Pride should be. Credit: Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

So here’s where we stand.

Black Lives Matter Toronto refuses to back down from its demands, which includes the exclusion of police floats from all future Pride parades.

After enthusiastically agreeing with BLMTO, and then immediately backtracking, Pride Toronto has punted on making a decision and will instead hold a public townhall in August.

Meanwhile, two Toronto city councillors have put forward a motion in support of keeping police at Pride, stating, without a hint of irony, that “since the inception of Toronto’s Pride Parade, the Toronto Police Service has worked tirelessly to promote a safe and inclusive atmosphere.”

And Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who believes basketball hoops attract crime, is livid that BLMTO won a City of Toronto award.

Outside of council, columnist Sue-Ann Levy is railing against “political correctness gone mad”; the Toronto Star’s editorial page is concern trolling the LGBT community; a reporter is asking about the goddamn Santa Claus parade; and almost every columnist in the country has felt the need to weigh in, usually on the side of the police.

Douglas Elliott, a prominent LGBT-rights lawyer who once sat as the chair of Pride Toronto’s dispute resolution committee, has promised to try to ban BLMTO from marching in the future.

And immediately after Pride, Mayor John Tory sent a letter to Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack expressing his enthusiastic support for police at Pride.

It’s a mess. And if it sounds like a familiar mess, it should. After all, we’re only a few years out from the battles over whether to exclude Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from the parade.

That fight lasted years. This one could last longer.

But maybe that’s the way it should be. The debate over racism, inclusion and police involvement, that BLMTO has prompted, cuts to the essence of questions over what Pride should be.

Many have railed against the corporatization of Pride, and questioned just who the parade is really for, but the issue of police involvement provides a tangible focal point for that debate. Should Pride be an acknowledgement of how far we have come? Or how far we have yet to go?

It will be messy. Just as with QuAIA, there are sure to be threats to Pride’s funding. There will be procedural machinations, board fights and more protests.

But for the first time, it looks as if the concerns of some of the most marginalized members of the LGBT community will be front and centre.

Everything old is new again. And that’s not a bad thing.