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Toronto city councillors threatening to cut Pride funding for excluding police floats

Suburban councillor is introducing motion to defund Pride next month

Toronto police marched in last year’s Pride (pictured at the parade on July 3, 2016), but uniformed officers are banned from participating in this year’s parade. Credit: Nick Lachance/Daily Xtra

A city councillor wants to see Pride Toronto’s funding cut if it doesn’t include police floats in this year’s parade.

John Campbell, a councillor from the suburban ward of Etobicoke Centre, plans on introducing a motion next month to cut off the $260,000 grant that the City of Toronto gives to Pride each year.

“There’s a lot of police officers that are members of the gay community and I know that they were certainly bothered by what happened,” he says. 

Campbell’s motion is reminiscent of the constant efforts to defund Pride between 2010 and 2014, when Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was marching in the parade. The motion imperils the relative financial security the organization has achieved in the past few years.

The motion asks for a review of city policies to determine if Pride is breaking any of them, and for the organization to reaffirm its “core value of inclusivity.”

Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto, says that the festival will go on, whether or not they receive funding from the city. 

“We do intend on continuing our festivities regardless of what happens at council,” she says. 

Campbell objects to the tactics used by Black Lives Matter Toronto during last year’s parade, and says that BLM forced Pride Toronto to adopt positions it would not have taken on its own.

But Pride Toronto’s decision to exclude police floats with uniformed officers was initiated by and approved by the membership of the organization at a January 2017 meeting.

“We think that a proportion of our membership raised concerns that were legitimate to that proportion of our membership,” says Nuamah. “We see our main goal as bridge-building and getting us to a place where we can develop a set of actions that reflect what everybody needs.”

The grant money is one part of a broader set of supports and services that the city provides to the festival, including police protection.

According to Nuamah, the Toronto Police Service will continue to donate its services to the festival, despite the increasingly contentious relationship between the two organizations.

“For this year’s festival, they have utterly committed to providing all of the support necessary to ensure that the festival is safe and that festival goers are safe,” she says. “They’ve been nothing but positive and reassuring with us about working with us to find our way through this.”

So far, approximately seven councillors have told Campbell that they would vote to cut Pride’s funding, including Mark Grimes, Justin Di Ciano, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Stephen Holyday, Jon Burnside, Michael Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti, according to CBC News, which broke the story.

Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Shelley Carroll have spoken out against the motion.

Campbell declined to comment on what he thought about the Black Lives Matter movement or if he believed that the police continue to subject black Torontonians to increased scrutiny and violence.

“Do those abuses still go on? I’m certainly in no position to say they do or they don’t,” he says. “If somebody is saying they’re going on, then I have to assume they’re going on.”

But he says that “belligerence” isn’t the right way to solve the issue.

When reminded that Pride Toronto is an outgrowth of protests that includes riots, Campbell says that the gay community had good reason to be angry then.

“They were receiving belligerence,” he says, but he declined to compare the experiences of the LGBT community in the 1980s to those of black LGBT Torontonians today. 

“If that’s what they say, then that’s probably the case,” he says. “But then I think banning the police, kicking out the police and putting up barriers is probably not the right way to go about it.”