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Trudeau Hints That Uniformed Police Should Be Allowed At Toronto Pride

"We should be focusing on how to include as many different people as possible, not talk about excluding."

06/25/2017 15:54 EDT | Updated 06/25/2017 21:12 EDT

Thousands lined Toronto's Yonge Street for the annual Pride parade, though continued debate over the exclusion of the city's police force swirled amid the colourful procession that weaved its way through the downtown core.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne were among the dignitaries who were marching in the procession. Trudeau was casually dressed in a blue blazer and pink shirt, waving to the thousands of people who lined both sides of the parade route down Yonge Street.

"It's all about how we celebrate the multiple layers of identities that make Canada extraordinary and strong,'' Trudeau told reporters before the parade started.

Sophie Gregoire Trudeau waved a rainbow flag, one of the symbols of the LGBTQ community. Two of the Trudeaus' children could be seen marching along with their parents.

Mark Blinch/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne wave to the crowd at the Pride parade in Toronto on Sunday as Trudeau's children Xavier and Ella-Grace look on.

Multi-coloured streamers and Canadian flags hung from some balconies along the parade route. The event started under cloudy skies and sporadic rain, but the sun came out at times toward the end of the event.

There was continued talk Sunday over the decision by organizers to keep the Toronto police float and uniformed officers out of this year's parade.

Toronto pastor and prominent gay activist Brent Hawkes touched on the issue when he opened Toronto Pride with his final service, emphasizing the importance making everyone feel welcome.

"Inclusion is the core value in our community and as long as a group or a company supports LGBT equality, then in my opinion, welcome aboard,'' he said.

Organizers should not be able to tell people what to wear at Pride, Hawkes added.

Because I probably wear a uniform that represents the group that has done the most damage to the LGBT community — the Christian Church,'' he said. "So I would say don't ban what's offensive to some, reform it to the benefit of everyone.''

In January, organizers agreed to a list of demands issued by the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, which included the police ban.

The issue first came to widespread public attention 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 a list of conditions.

Mark Blinch/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and their children Ella-Grace and Xavier walk in the Pride parade in Toronto on Sunday.

Black Lives Matter has argued that allowing uniformed officers at the parade could discourage marginalized communities from attending.

Hawkes said Pride must focus predominantly on LGBTQ issues, such as pushing for equality in Canada and around the world.

"Pride is annually vulnerable to the latest issues being so divisive that they can threaten the various existence of Pride as a community (and an) event,'' Hawkes said, referring to the threat of funding being pulled by Toronto City Hall when the police floats were banned. "We cannot afford for Pride to be at risk.''

Trudeau tweeted his support for Hawkes' remarks and later told Toronto TV station CP24 that he doesn't favour leaving anyone out.

We cannot afford for Pride to be at risk.Brent Hawkes

"We should be focusing on how to include as many different people as possible, not talk about excluding,'' Trudeau told the TV station in a brief interview during the parade.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, who was also taking part in the parade, expressed hope a solution would be found well before next year's event.

Mark Blinch/Canadian Press
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory attend a Faith + Pride church service in Toronto on Sunday.

"Any time anybody is excluded it can't be a good thing,'' Tory told reporters. "We've got to get it resolved, we'll resolve it in the Toronto way, which is by talking about it and I'm very optimistic that it will be resolved in time for next year.''

In response to the ban on police floats and uniformed officers, a group from Toronto police are taking part in the pride parade in New York City.

Last month, the Gay Officers Action League of New York extended the invitation for Toronto officers to join uniformed members of the New York Police Department in the pride events today.

National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations also took part in this year's event.

Toronto Pride From The Last 45 Years