TORONTO — The head of Canada's largest Pride parade is petitioning Toronto officials to keep an annual grant as debate over police participation in the event continues.
Olivia Nuamah, the executive director of Pride Toronto, is expected to make a case Monday to a city committee weighing the fate of the roughly $260,000 subsidy to the event.
Before the meeting began, Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement expressing his support for the funding, saying both Pride Toronto and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders have told him cutting the grant would not help resolve the controversy around the parade.
Earlier this year, a Toronto city councillor called for the grant to be revoked over Pride Toronto's decision to ban police floats, saying the event had become exclusionary.
Pride Toronto reiterated that officers were welcome at the parade so long as they were not in uniform. (Photo: CP)
The union representing Toronto police officers quickly echoed that call, saying it would be unacceptable for the city to sponsor an event that shuts out certain municipal employees.
In a statement released Sunday evening, Pride Toronto reiterated that police officers were welcome at the parade so long as they appeared as civilians rather than in an official capacity.
The organization said officers could participate in the march if they left their uniforms, weapons and cruisers behind.
Nuamah said both sides of the issue have the same goal.
"We are going to be trying incredibly hard to dampen down the vitriolic nature of this conversation, to be honest with you, to make it more about the cohesion which we all seek,'' Nuamah said.
Voting on the grant later this month
Having the mayor's public support is "huge,'' the organizer said.
Toronto city council is expected to vote on the grant at its meeting later this month.
The debate stems from Pride Toronto's decision in January to adopt a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, which included a ban on police floats.
The issue first made headlines during last year's parade, when members of the anti-racism group staged a sit-in that halted the march until Pride organizers agreed to meet their demands.
Black Lives Matter has argued that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage marginalized communities from attending.
The debate stems from Pride Toronto's decision in January to adopt a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter. (Photo: CP)
Saunders said earlier this year that in light of the ongoing controversy, the force would steer clear of the event, aside from overseeing security.
If the grant is revoked, the city would still provide policing, transportation and other services for the Pride parade,
Police participation in Pride events has stirred controversy across Canada, with several forces — such as those in Vancouver and Halifax — facing restrictions or bans for local parades.
Last week, however, the Pride committee in St. John's, N.L., reversed course and invited uniformed police officers to march in the city's parade.