Toronto‘s gay village is buzzing this afternoon just ahead of the start of the city’s massive Pride parade, with crowds wearing all colours and waving rainbow flags lining the downtown parade route under a clear blue sky.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory are among those expected to attend the annual celebration of all things LGBTQ. Premier Doug Ford has said he won’t participate because uniformed police officers have been excluded from the event for a third year in a row.
Uniformed officers were first banned from the parade in 2017 over concerns of racial profiling, and were banned again in 2018 over criticism the force had not taken the disappearances of several men missing from the city’s gay village seriously.
Serial killer Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty earlier this year to murdering eight men with ties to the gay village.
The leadership of Pride Toronto had initially invited officers to apply to march in this year’s parade, but the membership narrowly voted to bar police once again.
Thirty-six-year-old Ryan Singh says this is his 17th Pride parade, and he believes the celebrations are safer without uniformed cops.
“I think police have a lot of work to do in order to reconcile with our community. They’ve done a lot of harm before and including the McArthur case,” said Singh.
He said every year is important to focus on the LGBTQ community that fought for acceptance, but it’s even more vital this year to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots _ days of protests touched off by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.
“I just think knowing that this community has been resilient for so long _ even before Stonewall _ and being aware of that history and marking that history is so important,” Singh said.
Kiki Jahan said he’s been attending Pride for about 11 years, and he hopes uniformed police will be allowed back into the parade in the future.
“It makes me sad they’re not allowed. I think they should be out here celebrating who they are,” said the 38-year-old.