The union representing Toronto’s police officers is urging the city to pull an annual grant to Canada’s largest Pride parade after the event banned police floats.
In an open letter released by the union Wednesday, a committee representing LGBTQ officers in the force said it would be unacceptable for the city to give the roughly $260,000 grant to an event that excludes certain municipal employees.
The committee said officers would feel completely devalued and unsupported by the city if the funding continued.
The plea comes weeks after a similar call from a Toronto city councillor, who said the grant should be voted down until the city’s Pride parade returns to its “core principals of equity and inclusivity.”
In January, Pride Toronto adopted a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, including banning police floats from the parade.
Members of the anti-racism group held a sit-in part way through the parade last July, stopping it from moving forward for about a half hour, until Pride organizers signed the list of demands.
Black Lives Matter said it opposed police presence in the parade because it could discourage marginalized communities from participating.
About a month after Pride Toronto’s ruling, Toronto’s police chief announced the force would not be participating in the annual event this year, citing divisions within the LGBTQ community as a key motivator.
The city still provides policing, transportation and other services for the Pride parade, which would not be affected even if the grant is revoked.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, read the open letter Wednesday at city hall, where he was set to deliver it to Mayor John Tory.
“When any city employee, regardless of their job function, is disinvited from an event hosted in the city of Toronto, we feel it is simply a conflict of interest and unacceptable that the City of Toronto remain a sponsor,” he read.
“We can think of no example in Canada where either a public or private employer has been a lead sponsor for an event their employees were asked not to participate in.”
Pride Toronto said although the city’s police service will not be participating this year, individual LGBTQ officers were welcome to march in the parade.
“Toronto city council has provided valuable support to Pride through funding and support services. In turn, we provide the largest economic impact of any festival in the city,” the organization said in statement Wednesday night. “We hope this reality will be front of mind for council as they consider our funding this year.”
The issue of police participation in Pride parades has also emerged in other Canadian cities in recent months.
The Vancouver Pride Society has asked officers in that city to show up in fewer numbers and without their uniforms at the request of the local chapter of Black Lives Matter.
Halifax police have also announced they would pull out of the city’s Pride parade this year in light of the “national debate” about law enforcement participation in such events.
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