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Olivia Nuamah, Pride Toronto executive director, hopes the relationship between Toronto’s LGBTQ community and police service will one day mend and officers can once again march in uniform in the city’s annual Pride Parade.
However, that day has not yet arrived.
“Ideally, (the relationship) … would be to the point where the uniform wouldn’t represent the same thing because they would have re-engineered their relationship with the community such that it didn’t represent the harm that it represents at the moment,” she said.
“If we ever get to that place, that is really the real success.”
This year, Toronto police officers will not be marching in the parade in uniform after an open letter signed by multiple local LGBTQ organizations requested the TPS withdraw their application.
As its rationale, the letter cited incidents such as the police’s handling of investigations into the disappearances and deaths of Tess Richey and Alloura Wells, as well as the multiple men thought to be victims of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur.
Incidents such as these “speak to the marginalization of our community and the silencing of our concerns,” the letter read.
Police Chief Mark Saunders responded to the request, saying that he respected the decision and wanted to help improve the strained relationship with the community.
“Much more work is needed, of course. But hopefully this moment moves us forward in an important way,” Saunders said. He added that he hoped the police will be able to march in the 2019 parade.
Nuamah said she is happy with the police’s cooperation.
“It seemed like the best and kindest thing to do. And it also felt kind of respectful of the fact that I’ve been working really hard to try and mend bridges with the police service in relation to what happened in 2016,” she said.
Police did not participate in the parade last year, either. In 2016, the Black Lives Matter movement set out a list of demands; one of them being that police officers not walk in the parade, as they represent an institution that has oppressed people in the Black and LGBTQ communites for decades.
The 38th annual Pride Parade takes place on June 24.