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Toronto police withdraw application to march in Pride parade 2018

‘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’ says police Chief Mark Saunders

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders at a police board meeting at police headquarters on March 22, 2018. Credit: Nick Lachance/Xtra

One day after Pride Toronto and five other LGBT organizations asked Toronto police to withdraw their application to march in the 2018 Pride parade, Toronto police have agreed.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said in a statement on April 3 that he hopes the move will be a step forward in addressing the concerns of LGBT communities.

“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,” Saunders wrote.

The Toronto police have come under fire in recent months for how they handled the investigation into people who disappeared from Toronto’s Church-Wellesley Village over the last eight years. And some LGBT Torontonians have called for Saunders to resign after he made comments to the Globe and Mail in which he castigated civilians for not coming forward with more information.

“I strongly believe that we should be working toward a time when this issue is no longer a point of controversy and where the participation of our members in the Pride Parade is accepted and welcomed,” Saunders wrote.

Saunders said that he hoped the 2019 Pride festival would provide an “opportunity to demonstrate that progression.”

By withdrawing the application, Toronto police were acceding to a request made by Pride Toronto and five other LGBT organizations who put out a joint statement on April 2, criticizing the relationship between the police service and LGBT communities.

“This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement,” read the statement. “We feel more vulnerable than ever.”

This will be the second year in a row where Toronto police don’t march in the parade.

The issue of police involvement in Toronto’s Pride festival has been a central debate ever since Black Lives Matter Toronto stopped the parade in July 2016 to make a number of demands, including limiting police participation.

In January 2017, Pride Toronto’s membership voted to ban police organizations from marching if they had uniforms, firearms or police vehicles. While police officers were still allowed to march in the 2017 parade, Chief Saunders instructed police to not march until talks could be held with Pride Toronto.

According to a recent Toronto Star report, negotiations between Pride Toronto and Toronto police had been ongoing days before alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur was arrested in January 2018.