Toronto police withdraw parade application after urging from Pride executive

Published On April 8, 2018 | By Christina Zisko | News

Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto, asked police to withdraw their application to participate uniformed at the parade. (Twitter/@PrideToronto)

Christina Zisko

Toronto police withdrew its bid to march in uniform at this year’s Pride Parade.

This follows a request from multiple organizations, including Pride Toronto and The 519, an LGBTQ community centre, to take back the application to participate in the June 22-24 festivities.

Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto, believes asking the police to withdraw is better than outright rejecting the application.

“It was important to me that they validate the fact that the community felt a sense of fear,” Nuamah said. “To me the better thing to do was to negotiate as opposed to say nothing to one another, wait for the deadline and then cut it off.”

“The idea is that what we are doing is not breaking a partnership by saying no to a partner, but instead what we are doing is trying to fashion a way forward that works for everybody,” she said.

Nuamah confirms while Pride executives did encourage police to apply this year, events dating back to last summer changed the relationship between Toronto police and LGBTQ+ communities.

“When I started around a year ago, a priority was working with police and reintegrating them back into the festival,” Nuamah said. “The main change started to happen his summer when Alloura Wells was found and her murder wasn’t investigated appropriately such that it’s now inconclusive.”

Alloura Wells, a homeless transgender woman, disappeared from the city’s Gay Village last summer. While her body was found in early August, she was not identified until Nov. 30. Police have since apologized to Wells’ family for not treating the case with urgency.

“Then [it] moved on to Andrew Kinsman going missing, and of course it was the tipping point to then leading to a serial killer,” she said.

Andrew Kinsman went missing from the Village on June 26, one day after the 2017 Pride Parade. Kinsman’s disappearance, combined with the disappearances of multiple other gay men, led to speculation within the LGBTQ+ community that there was a serial killer on the loose.

Police refuted the idea of a serial killer, and did not address the LGBTQ+ community’s expressions of fear, Nuamah said. Then came the arrest of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur who is now being charged for these crimes.

“That changed everything. Up until then we were kind of okay, we could still see a way forward,” she said.

Cora Boccia, a social work major, questions police’s relationship with the LGBTQ+ community.

“The fact that the police wanted to be in the parade, and want it to be safe, the other thing they have to realize is, if there’s homophobia there it’s not going to be accepted. Queer people, we’re like a family,” she said.

Nuamah said these relationships can be repaired.

“I think we can work through it for sure. It’s going to take us kind of having to sit down again and sort of redraw boundaries but I think we will get there,” she said.

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