06/22/2018 12:25 EDT | Updated 06/22/2018 12:39 EDT

Pride Toronto Receives Backlash For ‘Drink & Carry’ Program

Buying a wristband means you agree to a bag and ID check at any time.

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For the first time ever, Pride Toronto will allow festival-goers to openly carry alcohol beyond patios and beer gardens. That means attendees can purchase drinks from participating bars and carry them on designated areas along Church Street and Wellesley Street.

But before you start running through the streets celebrating, there's a catch.

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A woman waves a pride flag as she marches in the 2017 Pride Parade in Toronto.

Not only will people have to purchase a wristband for the "Drink & Carry" program, but they must agree to a bag and ID check from security or festival crew members at any time.

Following the announcement earlier this month, many people have taken to social media to criticize the randomized checks, claiming it targets LGBTQ people, specifically trans people and people of colour, in what is supposed to be a "community space."

Queer activist Arün Smith has been particularly vocal about his concerns with Pride Toronto's new policy.

Explaining the problem to Xtra, Smith said, "When we get further into the areas of identification, we're now getting into the areas of dead names for trans [people], we're now getting into bodily interrogation, we're now getting into the prospect that trans people will be required to declare not simply the presentation of their gender but also the nature of their body, which should be deeply concerning."

The other issue with the checks is that the LGBTQ community has had a rough relationship with Toronto police for decades. That's one of the reasons why in 2016, Black Lives Matter protestors halted the Pride Parade and called for police to be banned from the festivities.

"This isn't a dispute between community members, it's a discussion about including a very violent government body in the parade," LeRoi Newbold, a BLMTO spokesperson, told The Toronto Star at the time.

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Black Lives Matter Toronto partakes in the 2016 Pride Parade ahead of their protest.

Recently, the relationship between LGBTQ people and Toronto police faltered again when the latter dismissed rumours of a possible serial killer in the Gay Village, and then arrested alleged killer Bruce McArthur.

But it's not just the LGBTQ community who is concerned about the new drinks policy. Criminal lawyer Christopher Hicks, who has a background in Ontario's alcohol policy and liquor licensing, told Vice News that the policy's terms and conditions were eyebrow-raising.

"They can ask for ID but I think any other intrusions like searches are very questionable," he told the site. "A liquor license does not require people to be searched. I think any search without cause is a problem."

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Two women hug during the 2017 Pride Parade in Toronto.

Ontario liquor laws were altered in 2011 to allow people at festivals to walk around with their drinks, CBC News reports. However, Pride Toronto is the first festival to actually put the laws into action.

"We're calling it drinks-to-go," Pride Toronto executive director Olivia Nuamah told CBC. "It's on the law books, it's not like it can't be done. It's just no one has tried it so we thought, why not."

Festival director Collin Joseph also noted to Vice that the introduction of the "Drink & Carry" program was to address spacing issues.

HuffPost Canada has reached out to Nuamah for further comment.

Despite the negative reaction to the new drinks-on-the-go policy, partnering bars and restaurants appear to be all for it.

"It's going to allow the flow of business to go more smoothly," Jamie Swanton, manager of operations at O'Grady's On Church, told CBC News. "People don't have to wait in lineups anymore. They can buy a drink really quickly and head back out onto the street."

Pride is a free event that runs from June 22 to 24. Those who are not buying into the "Drink & Carry" program can still walk through its designated areas and enter any establishment.

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