Metro Weekly

Police won’t participate in Toronto Pride amid tensions with LGBTQ community

The force received calls to withdraw due to alleged reluctance to investigate a serial killer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau marches in Toronto Pride — Photo: Justin Trudeau / Twitter

Toronto Police has removed its application to participate in the city’s Pride parade after a perceived inability to properly investigate LGBTQ-related crimes.

The force was asked by Pride Toronto to withdraw their application after distrust escalated this year when residents of the city’s Gay Village started to report the possibility of a serial killer targeting men in their community. These concerns were met with apathy, as police said there was “no evidence” of any serial killer.

In January, police charged Bruce McArthur with six counts of first-degree murder, after months of denying the killer’s existence. In a statement, Pride Toronto said allowing the officers to march would not fix the problems the police failed to address.

“This has severely shaken our community’s already often tenuous trust in the city’s law enforcement. We feel more vulnerable than ever,” they said, adding, “marching won’t contribute towards solving these issues; they are beyond the reach of symbolic gestures.”

Mark Saunders, police chief for the City of Toronto, said he wanted the application withdrawal to help mend the bond between the force and the LGBTQ residents it swore to protect.

“My hope is that this move will be received as a concrete example of the fact that I am listening closely to the community’s concerns,” he said. “Hopefully this moves us forward in an important way.”

The Toronto Pride parade was started after police raided four gay bathhouses in 1981, creating tension between the two parties that still exists to this day.

After the arrest of McArthur, many members of the Gay Village voiced their concerns about the lack of activity in investigating the disappearances of men in the community. The LGBTQ neighborhood became even more angered when Saunders said to The Globe and Mail that if more people had provided tips to the police, the killer would have been caught faster.

Pride Toronto said that they will unite as one voice during the festivities, but not without remembering violence against the gay community over the last year.

“We will come together, as we have for decades, and we will be seen,” said Pride Toronto. “We will rally and rise but it will be with heavy hearts as we have not yet begun to grapple with our anger, shock and grief.”

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