Crowds gather as massive Pride parade takes over downtown Toronto

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, Jun 24th, 2019

Toronto was abuzz on Sunday as a colourful crowd lined downtown streets to celebrate all things LGBTQ at the city’s annual Pride parade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who marched in the parade with some of his cabinet ministers and Toronto Mayor John Tory, extolled the importance of celebrating Pride.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to again be walking in Pride here in Toronto, Canada’s largest Pride parade,” he said. “As prime minister I think it’s important not just for everyone who is out here today celebrating, but to the people at home – young people especially who are still worried about coming out.”

The prime minister waved and blew kisses to the crowd as he marched, shouting “Happy Pride!” and stopping to shake hands with attendees on both sides of the street.

“Hi, happy Pride! I hope you have sunscreen on!” Trudeau told a young boy along the route.

Multiple Liberal MPs also marched in the parade, including Chrystia Freeland, Melanie Joly and Carolyn Bennett.

Premier Doug Ford did not be participating in the march. While he did take part in the York Region Pride event last weekend, he said he would not march in the Toronto event because uniformed police officers were excluded for a third year in a row.

Uniformed officers were first banned from the parade in 2017 over concerns of racial profiling, and were banned again in 2018 over criticism the force had not taken the disappearances of several men missing from the city’s gay village seriously.

Serial killer Bruce McArthur pleaded guilty earlier this year to murdering eight men with ties to the gay village.

The leadership of Pride Toronto had initially invited officers to apply to march in this year’s parade, but the membership narrowly voted to bar police once again.

Tory said he looked forward to having everyone being included and welcomed in the parade.

“I think it’s a day-by-day thing and I’m very optimistic and I’m going to work very hard to try and make sure that we have a police presence back in this parade, ideally next year,” said Tory ahead of this year’s event.

“It is a parade that is supposed to be about everybody being here and if the police are excluded then it’s not everybody. I think we’ll work it out if people of good will try hard to do so.”

Thirty-six-year-old Ryan Singh says this is his 17th Pride parade, and he believes the celebrations are safer without uniformed cops.

“I think police have a lot of work to do in order to reconcile with our community. They’ve done a lot of harm before and including the McArthur case,” said Singh.

He said every year is important to focus on the LGBTQ community that fought for acceptance, but it’s even more vital this year to recognize the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots – days of protests touched off by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969.

“I just think knowing that this community has been resilient for so long – even before Stonewall – and being aware of that history and marking that history is so important,” Singh said.

Kiki Jahan said he’s been attending Pride for about 11 years, and he hopes uniformed police will be allowed back into the parade in the future.

“It makes me sad they’re not allowed. I think they should be out here celebrating who they are,” said the 38-year-old.

Pride Toronto Grand Marshall Gigi Gorgeous says no matter who shows up, she’s pumped for the festivities

“I can’t wait to see everyone and feel the energy and just celebrate Pride, being proud of who you are and just feeling great about it.”

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