NEWS
05/26/2017 12:54 EDT | Updated 05/26/2017 16:22 EDT

Toronto to keep funding Pride parade amid controversy over police participation

TORONTO — Canada's largest Pride parade will continue to receive an annual grant from the City of Toronto despite calls to cut the funding over a decision to ban uniformed police officers from the event.

The majority of city council members voted Friday to uphold the $260,000 grant, rejecting a motion to have it revoked.

A Toronto city councillor had called for the grant to be pulled over Pride Toronto's decision to ban police floats from the colourful summer parade, saying the event had become exclusionary.

The union representing Toronto police officers had also pushed for the funding to be withdrawn, arguing it would be unacceptable for the city to sponsor an event that shuts out certain municipal employees.

Pride Toronto, meanwhile, has consistently said police officers are welcome at the parade so long as they appear as civilians rather than in an official capacity.

Toronto Mayor John Tory had said he would support moving forward with the grant, noting both Pride Toronto and Toronto's police chief told him cutting it would not help resolve the issue.

Pride Toronto decided on the police float ban in January after an appeal from the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter, which staged a sit-in over the issue during last year's march.

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

As a result of the controversy, the Metrolinx transit agency has now asked its transit safety officers not to wear uniforms while marching in this year's parade, in case they could be confused for police officers.

A spokeswoman for the agency said the decision was made "out of an abundance of caution."

Police participation in Pride events has stirred controversy across Canada recently, with several forces facing restrictions or bans for local parades.

In Vancouver, officers will be allowed to march as part of the City of Vancouver's entry in the event, along with city staff and members of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

But no marked cruisers will be included and about 80 per cent of the marching officers will wear T-shirts rather than uniforms.

The Pride committee in St. John's, N.L., recently reversed course and invited uniformed police officers to march in the city's parade.