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Toronto Pride Parade 2016. Photo: CIJnews

Halifax police withdraw from Pride Parade to “avoid divisions” in LGBT community

Halifax police announced that they will not take part in this year’s Pride Parade, scheduled to take place on June 22. Officers will be permitted to participate out of uniform, but no official police floats will be allowed take part in the parade.

Halifax Chief of police said the decision came after months of negotiations with Halifax Pride. “We recognized that our participation in the parade may contribute to divisions in the LGBT2Q+ community, which is contrary to our intent of building a strong and sustainable relationship,” Jean-Michel Blais said in a statement.

On June 3, 2016, Toronto’s annual Pride Parade was hijacked by a group of activists from the Toronto chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) the self-proclaimed “coalition of Black Torontonians resisting anti-Black racism, state-sponsored violence, police brutality”, who were invited by Pride to be the “honoured guests” at the parade.

The activists ended up disrupting the parade for 30 minutes when they suddenly staged a “sit-in” in the middle of a busy intersection, repeatedly shouting “shut it down!”, and forcing tens of thousands of participants to wait until they presented Pride organizers with a list of nine demands, which included a complete ban on all police floats and booths in Pride marches, parades and community spaces because, according to BLM, police floats are “symbols of oppression”.

Refusing to move until Pride agreed to their ultimatum, then Pride executive director Mathieu Chantelois, had no choice but to sign the demand document under duress in order to get the parade moving.

Following an outcry over BLM’s disruption of one of Toronto’s biggest annual events, Doug Elliott – a gay lawyer, one of the leading advocates for the same-sex marriage in Canada and a recipient of Pride Toronto Lifetime Achievement Award – told Talk Radio AM640 that he attended the parade with his family, which took place a few weeks after the tragic Orlando shooting, in order to make a statement they were not afraid and to show that they had confidence that the Toronto Police would provide them with adequate protection. “There were no attacks made by ISIS, but lo and behold, the parade was disrupted by our ‘honoured guests’”, Elliot told the radio host.

When asked whether he thinks it was irresponsible of BLM to hijack the parade with a “sit-in”, Elliot said that BLM’s behaviour was “the most reprehensible thing I’ve seen. I’ve been at every parade since 1981, and this is the most disgusting disruption of the Pride Parade. The homophobes have treated us better than these people did. It was a complete betrayal.”

Following the “sit-in”, Janaya Khan, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter told NOW Magazine: “People are saying that we halted progress of the march. I would say that we made progress. When we are creating platforms where things can be more inclusive, where there’s many voices heard at the table, I think that’s progress”.

On June 25, 2016, BLM issued a statement rejecting Toronto Police’s apology to the LGBT community and accused it of “terrorizing the LGBT Black”. “We denounce Toronto Police’s apology”, the statement said. “We reject their attempts at pink washing… We give a big fuck you to increased police presence in LGBT spaces. We demand accountability for their continued terrorizing of LGBT Black, Indigenous, migrant, street-involved, or sex-working peeps. TPS, Mark Saunders, we see through you.”

During a July 20, 2016 event commemorating the “lives of Jessica Williams, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and countless others”, Pascale Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter-Toronto Coalition accused the police of committing “genocide” on their bodies. Diverlus told the crowd that “They [police] shoot us in our homes, in churches, in clubs, while we sleep everywhere. There is no safe place for us.”

On December 6, 2016, Toronto city council awarded BLM the William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations for being “committed to eradicating all forms of anti-black racism, supporting black healing and liberating black communities.”

Last month, Pride Toronto members capitulated to BLM’s demands and voted to ban police floats and marches from the 2017 parade.

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About Ilana Shneider

Ilana Shneider
Ilana Shneider is the co-editor of CIJnews and the founding executive director of Canada-Israel Friendship Association, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the mutually beneficial, long-standing diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between Canada and Israel. She can be reached at [email protected]

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